Wow what a passage. This little trimaran makes us both work hard. She's not easy but then again she is incredibly rewarding and offers a level of sailing few get to experience.
We had an amazing first night out of Singapore. The wind slowly filled in after about five hours of motoring in which we covered 25nm. This got us halfway around the southern edge of Singapore. From there the wind filled in from the east. It was night and we unfurled the big reacher, which gave us around 4-9kts of boat speed. The speed changed as did our angles to it as we wove our way in and out of the ships at anchor and ships heading into the different ports. There was only one time when I had to change course and shine a bright light at an over taking ship that was cutting us off and very close to running us over. He probably couldn't tell our exact course and presumed we were running a bit deeper than we were. It's wasn't an issue though and we just run off for a few minutes putting a hundred feet between us as opposed to none!
A lot of people worry about passing thru Singapore but we enjoyed it. You need to keep an incredibly sharp eye out and we both is sat on watch one on either side of the boat to make sure we were on top of things. Drifting through the ships with the lights shinning bright being pulled along silently while listening to there massive engines rumble was surreal and made us cherish the way we sail with the wind. There's something so alien about big ships they just aren't anything like the ships of yesteryear that slowly glided along with the winds drift, now they are steel bohemths from another world totally disconnected from the watery environment they travel in.
Around 0100 hrs we passed the south western corner of Malaysia and headed further to the north west. In the distance the clouds were alive with lightening. We try not to think too much about it but in this part of the world your confronted with it daily and it's hard to get it to escape your mind, especially when your on such a small vulnerable boat like Spirit there's no escaping the fear.
In the early morning around 0230 Claudia went on watch and was making good time. The wind was light and from the east. We were traveling well until around 0400 when the wind totally died out. As the wind died Claudia decided to started the engine and furl the jib. I awoke and came on deck to see a black line of cloud approaching from the west. The air was cold and dense. As it came in it came in fast reaching 25krs in under two minutes. Luckily the staysail was at the ready. There was three reefs in the mainsail from earlier in the evening. Spirit took off in the squall sitting perfectly with the sail combination in the heavy winds. We sat on 12-14kts sailing upwind and it felt great although cold and wet from the intense rain that the squall bought with it. There wasn't any ground to cloud lightening it all seemed to be cloud to cloud, which was a relief.
After the wind and rain passed we continued on slowly and I got back to bed for another hour of rest. It didn't last long though as I was awoken a short time later with the claps of thunder and lightening around us. Again there was a dark line ahead to the north but this time it brought with it an incredibly display of lightening. There was black clouds nearly touching the oceans surface and every few minutes they let out these glowing forks of lightning that would reach down and touch the water and they'd repeat it two or three times to the same spot as though they had so much energy to give it was awe inspiring but incredibly frightening with it being so close to us. We tried to tack away for a short time but things went wrong fast. The seas had build on our beam and as we tacked we started to take them head on making Spirit pitch and bury her bow into them. The wind was around 22kts and with the tack we tried to put away the jib and pull out the staysail. I couldn't get the jib away fast enough and it flogged badly loosing a batten at the same time the prodder buried into a wave and bent down tearing the alloy at the pivot point onboard Spirit. The jib sheet wrapped around itself as we lost the tail with the flogging. So we had a jib that we couldn't get out on a stb tack and a prodder that was trying to self destruct itself on the bow. It was a nightmare no sleep and everything falling apart at the same time. Then a minute later there was a huge thump as though something had come thru the boat. As we looked astern we could see the floating monster was a huge lump of tree that Spirits port float bow had tried to cut in half. I went forward to try and secure the prodder at which time I noticed that the Nav lights had also been ripped off and that there was a chunk out of the float bow. It was hard to see clearly but it looked ok and nothing that had compromised the hull.
We got the prodder secured and boat settled again and watched as the forks of lightening dispersed to the south east. Later the day cleared and sun came out. You would never had know as the seas dropped off again that hour previous things had been so violent and so different. There wasn't a breath of air and so we chose to motor sail for a few hours to try and get some miles put away. I was able to grab some rest again and fell quickly to sleep. Around 1100 the weather improved allowing us to sail with full main and jib. It was directly on the nose from the northwest but hey it was wind the seas were flat and we are able to short tack our way up the northern side of the shipping lanes without the hum of the outboard engine. It's so fun to sail Spirit that even when there's the slightest breeze we are happy to work hard to get her moving. It's also far faster and far more peaceful to sail than motor even with the littlest of pressure we can make better speed than the outboard.
We short tacked for a few hours then just before the sun started to set the wind backed to the north then north east and we got a super angle that allowed us to crack off the sheets a little and to make rhumb line directly to Admiralty Marina. The wind went up and down during the night and early morning but it never dropped below 5kts true and the angle was always from 35-60 apparent giving us good apparent wind across the deck and good speed through the water. At around 0200 we closed on the marina and by 0300 we were all fast to what we thought was the fuel dock. We later found out it wasn't and in the morning they happily helped us move from there into a more permanent and secure berth. It's so nice to stop and be still again after such a hectic delivery and to get Spirit cleaned up and sorted after the little bashing she took a day prior. We'll now hang out here for a bit watching the weather fixing up the things we broke and then we'll head off for the next adventure to the next place up the coast.
Nongsa to Sebana
We pulled into Nongsa not knowing what to expect. We had heard reports that it's a little open so I requested a dock that was easy to get into. Once we got into the marina we found that they'd given us the first pen on the end of the arm to slip into. Luckily the wind was virtually nonexistent as it was a tight fit with a foot on either side of Spirit.
There was a few days spent cleaning the boat up after the passage from Lombok, doing laundry and just unwinding after a week at sea. It's a nice spot but there's nothing apart from the hotel and marina in the near vicinity and to get to Batam the biggest and nearest town it's a heady taxi fee and long ride. Both of which we weren't up to.
The simplicity of being at sea is always more present once you arrive near land. The costs that you start to occurs for every little thing and the way even the most simply task becomes complex makes you want to untie the lines and head back out into the blue yonder.
One of the main reasons for our stop was to get out extendedvisas for Thailand. If we didn't we'd only be allow to enter for 30 days, with the tourist visa we were to get we can get 60 days and extend for another 30 days so a total of 90 days can be had. When you sail somewhere the last thing you want to do is have a limited stay of 30 days it's just no where near enough time to look around and depart again all in good weather.
On the third day in Nongsa we got up at 5am and headed to the ferry about ten minutes ride away from the marina. We got the ferry to Singapore and spent a night there with an old family friend. The visa application and process is very easy as long as you are prepared yourself with all the paperwork and are there on time.
The applications were made at 11am on the Tuesday and at 2pm the following day we went in and picked up our passports with the visas. The ferry back was at 6:30pm so we went and did some quick shopping beforehand getting some items we couldn't source in Indonesia and I bought some new three strand line to replace Spirits old mooring lines, which were made up from old halyards that had no give in them.
The main down point of being at Nongsa was the openness of the marina to the north. With the daily thunder storms that were around we would get quite a bit of slop coming into the marina. It was horrible for Spirit and she would buck around at the dock like a horse trying to break free. It's an awe full experience and something that just comes with cruising on a fast and light boat. You can have everything and this is one of her down points.
We changed the lines when we got back to the boat and it made a world of difference. Just giving Spirit the elasticity of the 12mm three strand over the unforgivingness of braided line was like chalk and cheese. She was easy at the berth now but still moved around a lot it just took the jarring and pulling out of it.
The next day we spoke to the marina office and organised too depart. Our friends on Rotor had headed over to Sebana Cove Resort and had emailed about how great it was. It was less than half the price of Nongsa and it had better facilities and offered a lot more. It was however a few miles up a creek but we were keen to explore and it's always fun seeing new places.
So that morning are cleared out of Nongsa whom were great at organising the prompt departure and headed for Sebana Cove. we trucked it across the Singapore straits dodging a few ships along the way. It wasn't too bad though and it was nothing compared to what people had spoken about. With good visibility it's actually a pretty strait forward affair.
The trip up the creek was awesome flat calm waters, mangroves on each side and birds singing it was a world away from Nongsa Point!! We decided to carry out the remaining jobs we had to do and to rest a bit before heading further north to Langkawai and Thailand. The last few months had flown by and we felt a real need to stop and slow down.
After the four miles of wandering creek we came upon the marina tucked away into a corner of the mangroves. It's a beautiful place and only over the last few years has it come back to life. The local yachts here have told us that about ten years ago it was fairly run down and there was no work or maintaining being done to the resort. Now it's under new ownership or management and it's wonderful. The staff are incredibly helpful. They organised our clearance into Malaysia and helped us when we approached the dock allowing us to put Spirit wherever we felt comfortable. As we don't use shoe power we stopped at the end of the finger dock and made ourselves fast. The serenity was so sublime and instantly we both felt at ease and at peace.
It looked as though it was a gift from the weather gods. The forecast was for a week of south east winds at 10-15kts that stretched all the way from Lombok to Singapore in the north. It was an opportunity we couldn't pass up so the decision was made to depart Lombok early on Saturday morning after spending nearly a week down at Gili Asahan we were ready to go sailing on Spirit again.
First days forecast was for lighter winds which wouldn't really fill in until we were a good 40-60nm away from the volcanoes of Bali and Lombok which seem to mess with the local winds Iike nothing else. At nearly 4000m in height you can understand why they have such a strong local influence on the weather.
The anchor was raised early and we motored out of the bay and into the Lombok straight. While the sun was low we ate breakfast then hoisted the full main sail and large reacher. Spirit powered up in the light winds and heeled to one side and slowly accelerated towards the horizon.
We made great time across the straight and managed a couple of 14kt bursts in the fresh breeze of around 10-12kts true. The conditions were incredible with flat calm seas a clear sky and wind angles that sent us flying along the rhumb line towards Nongsa Point where we hoped to be able to get to before the north west winds came back into play.
The scenery around this part of the world is truly magic. To see peaks of volcanoes popping out of the clouds thousands of meters high makes you question whether what your seeing is truly real. These small islands that are sometimes only 80nm in length and breadth have peaks that compete with the Alps!!
As Bali dropped off to our south and the volcano top became one with the sky the wind continue to give us good pace and direction. The sunset slowly sank into the horizon and bought with it the magic of the Indonesian sunsets. The wind slowly dropped as the sun melted into the ocean upon the horizon.
By 1900 the sun had sunk below the horizon and the sea had become oily and slick and without breath of wind it looked like a sheet of glass reflecting everything above. The residual waves were making Spirit flop from side to side so we dropped the sails and made the decision to let the ocean carry us in the direction she wished, without wind we were happily at her mercy. The full moon made the night seem like day and you could see it's reflection upon the ocean like a mirror.
It wasn't until around 2am that the breeze filled again to something of enough strength to get us going again. As Claudia was sleeping I unfurled the large reacher, which was still furled on the prodder and left the mainsail down. With the little wind there was we started to move and increase our apparent again.
The day light brought with it a cloud bank to the east that showed signs of strong winds. With the binoculars I could make out a water spout below one cloud that was trying to form. For the next few hours I watched closely as the dark clouds passed us and moved off to the west. We didn't see anymore than 20kts of true wind but we were at the ready to furl the reacher should it change.
By noon we had a settled easterly wind of around 14kts which gave a great pace just using the large reacher. We'd put up the sun awning earlier before breakfast and had settled into the cruising program we normally adopt of one forward sail. It's incredibly easy for us to manage when on watch alone and makes for a safe and fast passage even without the mainsail we still sit on anywhere from 8-12 kts in the puffs and it allows us to run very deep downwind angles.
As the afternoon came upon us the free power provided by our 548 watts Solbian solar panels filled the lithium batteries and gave us the power needed to run the water maker. Claudia prepared an awesome soup for dinner and after that at about seven I decided to put my head down for some much needed deep sleep. We had ships and fishing boats all around but Claudia has proven to be a keen watch-keeper and is happy dodging these dark shapes in the night.
An hour later I woke to the gut wrenching noise and feeling of Spirit driving up upon a reef. That first moment of consciousness brings with it so many instant fears. The noises and shudders that Spirit made were as though we were either being run down by another vessel or driving up upon something hard. I dragged myself from sleep instantly and was on deck quick enough to see what it was we hit drift off the stern. Claudia called out to me upon contact startled just as much as I by the strike. It felt like a rock but it was a large tree that had struck the centreboard. With a quick inspection we concluded Spirit to be sound and found no signs of damage. We had put the centreboard partly down for this reason as anymore speed and a direct hit to the rudder could have been a lot worse. We were doing around 8kts when the tree struck.
After inspecting Spirit as best we could Claudia carried on her watch while I tried to get some more rest. With boats everywhere it's reassuring that Claudia feels confident handling Spirit on her own. I often wake and we are on opposite tacks with her gybing and furling the sails on her own. After doing the passages from Airlie Beach and up through Indonesia she has become more and more at ease with the sail handling and she's making the best crew member and partner you could ask for. I'm very proud of how quickly she's taught herself and how much effort she puts into learning.
Throughout the rest of the night we dodged ships and made our way to the south coast of Kalimantan. Claudia called me around 1am for my watch, we were surrounded by fishing boats and as I wiped the sleep from my eyes she explained what each was doing and who to keep an eye on. The morning hours were amazing, and with the full moon off the bow Spirit was gliding down a silver lit highway supplied by the glimmer of the moon off the water.
Around 5 am the sky behind became red as the sun started to approach the horizon. The seas were calm and wind light as it has been most of the passage so far. In the cockpit I listened to music softly and dreamt of stopping and having a swim at the next island. Out of the corner of my eye Sprout flew down and landed beside me. He'd obviously been woken by the daylight creeping into the sail where he had found his new home.
Sprout was our new pet, some type of swallow or finch. He'd hopped onboard a few miles out from Bali and probably thought it easier to adventure around Indonesia onboard a trimaran. And too right he was! he was being feed each day with seeds, sprouts (hence the name) and anything we had left over that took his pallet. He was becoming a very friendly little fellow landing on me while sleeping in the cockpit and even venturing inside the cabin to see what he could eat. He learnt to fly in and out of the hatch as well and the companionway and was right at home sitting next to either of us in the cockpit while the three of us sat and ate. Who knows where he plans to jump ship for the moment it's great having his company.
The third day at sea bought with it a magical sunrise, smooth seas and again light winds from dead astern. Always the way but hey we are cruising and happy to sail directly downwind. It maybe slow but it beats the noise of an engine and motoring any day!
We still had up the big reacher but it was having trouble holding itself in the light and dead astern breeze. So just before lunch we put up middy one of our favourite assymetrical spinnakers. He's very stable and loves those deep down wind runs. He's even happy to be on the same tack as the wind something not many sails can claim. We continued to ghost along at 5-7kts towards the NW with ships and fishing boats passing us closely all day long.
Claudia prepared an amazing stir fry chicken with noodles for lunch that tasted delicious. With the batteries full by noon we decided to top up the water tank and to fill our drinking water container at the same time. We have been so impressed with our Solbian solar panels and new Victron regulators. We are using around 20% or 60Ah of power each night and this is topped up by 1100 most mornings even today with some cloud it had them filled the before noon.
To give you an idea of what we run at night, there's a fridge, VHF, B&G instrumentation, Nav lights, autopilot, chart plotter, stereo and Furuno GPS. With all this running our total draw is around 2.8 amps. When the fridge drops in it goes up to around 9 amps total but this only runs for 2 minutes every fifteen. It's taken some work and monitoring but we've been able to get Spirits power usage right down and to a level where we can easily survive off solar alone. Everything we have onboard that requires power or charging is well thought out before it's purchased. We buy things that are powered by USB so we hardly ever use the inverter, which is a very inefficient way of making power and charging items. It's amazing the things you can purchase now that can be powered by USB, such as electric toothbrushes! All our torches and headlamps are run by rechargeable batteries that are charged via USB and so on.
The third evening at sea bought with it a softening breeze from the ESE and virtually no traffic. We had some fishing boats that were made obvious from the illumination and glow that you could see well over the horizon. The local boats here seemed to have there own interpretation of navigation lights and it was often hard to tell what direction they were travelling. You just have to monitor them. As they travel slowly or not at all we found it pretty easy to dodge and go around them.
The moon was just passed full now and had started to wane. It still cast a shadow over the boat when it went behind the sail it was that bright and the sea shimmered from its reflection. There's nothing quite like sailing with a light warm breeze, smooth sea and full moon it's an incredible experience and brings with it a surreal feeling of peace.
The pace of the evening and early morning was slow. With the true wind anywhere from 6-10kts Spirits speed maintained a steady 5-7kts over the ground. We kept Middy up all night and he pulled us along reliably as he always has even from the moment we first used him over six years ago he's been a great sail for strong and light conditions. We have had him up blasting downwind along Australia's east coat in 28kts of true breeze surfing waves at 16-20kts and now here we are ghosting along in 7-10kts of wind. He seems to enjoy all conditions and is a versatile sail to have on a cruising boat.
Off to the south there were flashes of lightening in the cloud tops. The forecast was for some rain in the early morning but for now there were no signs of clouds or rain only flashes to the distant south.
Our fourth day at sea was a busy one. Claudia had plans for making some fresh biscuits, replenishing the rice milk and also topping up our ginger tea. It's incredible what you can provide for yourself with a bit of thought. Claudia is very much into eating healthy, wasting little and doing as much of it as you can yourself. She makes our own rice milk with the thermomix and boils up the ginger tea on the stove. To make the biscuits we use the gosun solar cooker we have onboard. It does a fantastic job and can cook just about anything an oven can cook.
We had great conditions to do all this cooking in with a steady 8-12kts throughout the day. It seems to pick up a little more in the mornings and then drops off again in the afternoon. Not a lot just a few extra knots as the sunrises. Tonight however we are sailing into fresher breeze with a stable 12-15kts from the SE.
We passed a lot of squid boats today. They seem to work in groups and one large group we passed had about ten boats anchored resting before their night shifts started. It's strange to see boats 100's of miles from shore on anchor but in the area of the Java Sea it's shallow around 30-50m for the most part allowing boats to anchor easily. The squid boats here are incredible. They look more like giant spider webs of lights, poles and nets all strung out over the water to catch their precious cargo of squid. At sundown we were amazed by the loom of the light that they produce. It was as though we were surrounded by cities on ever side as the sky drew darker.
We are now closing on Palau Belitung, which is about two thirds of the way to Singapore from Lombok. As we approach the east coast around at 0600 we hope to find some phone signal so we can get a weather update. Our last forecast four days ago had the weather changing as we approached Nongsa and Singapore so the latest update will supply us with a more detailed projection to make the decision of whether we proceed as planned or pull in for a few days rest while we await a better forecast. From what we have been able to read Belitung looks as though it's a magical spot with beautiful and well secure anchorages and friendly locals so neither of us would mind a short break. We'll allow the weather to decide as it's something we don't argue with onboard Spirit.
As we approached the morning brought with it picture perfect weather. The seas reduced to small wavelets and the wind was light. It was superb gliding along in such calm conditions as we approached. The island is large but not overly high about 500m at the highest point. The phone started to vibrate with messages and we were back into the realms of society and all it brings with it. After days of nothing. It a near snails pace of life things hotted up quickly with emails being sent thick and fast and weather being downloaded.
The latest forecast was spot on with light winds continuing for the next two days, which would get us into Nongsa by Friday afternoon we hoped.
We slowly ghosted past Biletung and after a few quick calls and emails it was back to the normal life onboard with Claudia preparing some bread and lunch while I fitted a new fan above the bed and and changed a small pipe on the water maker.
As Biletung faded into the distance the wind increased to a very comfortable 12-16kts and Spirit settled into her groove of surfing wave after wave at speeds of up to 15kts. It was ideal sailing and we were making great miles in the right direction. A cloud front formed to the west and slowly approached with towering thunderheads above but far off westwards. As I neared and passed us the breeze filled in and swung from SE to S and increased to 18kts. Spirit was in her element and took off down the small waves. It didn't last long however and within two hours we were back to our normal plodding along in under ten knots of breeze.
We had some soup Claudia prepared for dinner earlier and I took a few hours sleep while Claudia maintained the watch. It was around 1900 when I got down to bed and the rest was deep especially now I had fitted a fan above my bed. The last few nights had been got down below with little breeze and the stifling temperatures you get from being near the equator.
I woke around 0130 to clear skies and a full moon once again. The wind was still incredibly light anything from 7-10kts and Spirit was gliding over the waters surface. It's fascinating how well she moves in such nonexistent conditions. The seas totally calm you can only just feel the 4kts of apparent wind but somehow we are being propelled at anything from 4-7kts from 170 degrees true on the port side. It's crazy how this little boat make her own wind and moves so fast and effortlessly through the water.
It was an uneventful evening with no traffic of any kind to be seen. We passed within 5nm of some chatted shoals. I wasn't game to go any closer as the chart warned of their inaccuracies. If we can keep up this pace we should find ourselves in by Friday afternoon. With the wind increasing most days just after sunrise we should be able to put a few miles under us today.
Things didn't turn out as we'd hoped. The wind was awful today. At around 0900 we had our first squall pass us after watching the black clouds roll in from the east. We were having a great morning sail but it was clear from a long way out it wasn't going to last long. As the cloud approached the wind veered to the SW and increased. Heavy rain feel reducing our visibility to zero. We had dropped Middy our assymetrical beforehand on seeing the approaching clouds and had unfurled the jib. The rain was blinding and with it came 30kts that with our speed of 10kts was forward of the beam. Spirit took off and we hung on for the ride Claudia keeping a close eye on the wind strength while I did my best to keep watch and hold the job sheet ready for easing should it rise above 30kts.
It passed quickly and left with it a horrible residual swell and wave that shook Spirit from side to side slamming the floats each time she was flung about by the waves. There was little to no wind to help stop this so we were unable to do anything apart from hold on and watch our poor girl shake.
It took hours before any wind came back in by which time we had done three head sail changes trying to get the boat moving. The waves are a real killer as they put an end to sailing in anything apart from a strong breeze. We needed power to hold Spirit to one side and onto her float but there wasn't enough wind. There was wind but the rig flying from side to side made it inefficient and impossible to sail in light airs. If we had a calm sea it would have been wonderful.
Our day went on like this with the wind slow increasing and the seas flattening out. We were finally able to sail for the last few hours of the afternoon but it didn't last long. As we approached the southern end of Palau Lingga the waves calmed seas reduced and we started to ghost along at more than wind speed, which was only around 4-8kts maximum.
The sun started to set in an amazing red ball that was cut by thin clouds making it look more like a Japanese painting than a real life sunset. It was beautiful and Claudia and I were lost in its awe until it disappeared below the horizon. Once the sun dipped so did the breeze. It fell out to nothing and we sat there going nowhere fast.
We had done nearly 5,000 mm since departing Australia after the refit but we still didn't have a good solid test of our fuel consumption and range as we hadn't used more than a quarter of a tank on any of our passages. So with the calm flat seas and no wind we thought it a good time to test and see what we could do. So down went the tohatsu two stroke and away she purred. We put the revs up to a good cruising speed of 4.5 kys and checked the fuel level. It was 1900 and we have three quarters of a tank.
I was awoken by Claudia at 0230 and the breeze had just started to fill in again giving us 8kts from the 160 true. Perfect our apparent was 90 degrees and the little reacher was up an furled ready to go. We checked the fuel and I was surprised to SE that we'd done around 35nm on half a tank!! Not bad that gives us a range of around 140nm in calm conditions as 4.5kts pretty good I thought for 40lts and a two stroke!
We rolled out the assymetrical and away Spirit went going from 4.5kts up to 7kts in the light breeze. It's incredible when the seas are calm how easily driven this little trimaran is. She is so happy to drift along in next to no wind it's the seas that are a killer as soon as that rig gets flung from side to side and looses efficiency we are going nowhere.
As we closed on Nongsa the traffic started to increase but with it we got calmer conditions as we sailed into the lee of the Riau Islands. This part of the world has an incredible amount of history dating back thousands of years from being one of the main stops in the Asian trading routes. It was held by the Portuguese, Dutch and a English at different times and is now the last stop off point in Indonesia for anyone heading further north to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Around 0530 some dark clouds approached from the west bring a fresher breeze. There was a low line of black behind us that looked as though it was dropped some serious amount of rain with it. In front we had a clearing to the west but more dark partches of cloud just in front us as that looked as though it had passed. As the cloud bank closed on us the wind got colder and freshened up to 28kts. I had rolled up the smaller reacher earlier upon seeing the cloud approaching and had fastened the mainsail to the boom along with the lazy sheets and lines laying around the deck. You can never be too prepared for what a squall can bring. We were lucky though as it passed us and left no hint of rain but that we could see on the radar well astern. Once the breeze dropped to 20kts and the sky cleared and became light with the sunrise I unfurled the small reacher and off we took again hitting 20kts at one stage. We were reaching fast so I took the tiller and helmed for an hour surfing and playing in the small waves and fresh breeze.
It didn't last long though and by 0900 we were back to the normal drifting in 4-8kts of wind. The angle wasn't bad just aft of the beam so I put the mainsail up and hoisted the larger reacher we have onboard. The extra power provided Spirit with enough speed to bring the apparent forward to give us 10-12 kts SOG which was a blessing as we were pushing now to get into Nongsa during daylight hours. It was still 60nm away and the wind was proving to be far from reliable.
The islands of the Raui group were upon us by 1100 and we could clearly make out palm trees and beaches as passed Palau Pangkil in the steaming sun. With the sails up we had very little protection so it was an easy decision to drop the main once the wind died and to put up our awning. It was so hot the decks were reaching 70 Celsius and were just about to hot to walk on, I felt as though I was melting!
Good friends contacted us just as we were sailing through the Raui group and they were 30nm behind. An easy decision was made to stop early for the night and next day so we could catch pup with them and enjoy a nice dinner together onboard. We found a suitable anchorage just behind Palau Chemara about 20nm from Nongsa. It had good all round protection and looked like a nice place for a few days rest after the long passage up.
You couldn't have asked for better weather as we approached. A small very dark cloud had appeared between us and the island about 3nm out. It was nothing just your average cloud until we had reached the bottom of it. Then all of a sudden that cloud seemed to grow in intensity and drop what felt like a years worth of rain upon us. Within two minutes Spirit was clean with not a speck of salt her and we were wetter than wet. Our clothes had been a washed along with the boat in what felt like an open car wash.
We rounded the Island and dropped the sails motoring slowly into the anchorage. The charts here are far from reliable so we used google earth to spot any obstacles as we entered the bay under engine. We were joined by our friends on Rotor the following day and spent nice evening catching up on the past years we hadn't seen each other.
The following day we set sail early to Nongsa Point. Even though there wasn't much wind we enjoyed the nice cal sail with the jib to Nongsa.
We spent five days getting Spirit back together and launched at Medana Bay. There was still a lot of smaller jobs such as getting the sails back on and wiring the new solar regulators that needed to be done but we were so keen to get on the move we decided to head 30nm south to Gili Asahan where is more sheltered and a far nice spot to carry out these final jobs. Last time we were here we'd also made friends with the owners of the Eco Resort down there so it gave us time to catch up with them and do a little relaxing in between jobs.
We tied Spirit up stern to the beach down in Asahan and enjoyed the tranquil clear waters and calm conditions that the anchorage provides. There's endless things to do around the area with great walks all over the island, to snorkelling and even great dinning ashore at the Nautilus Restaurant.
Most of the jobs had been knocked off by the fifth day, which gave us a couple of days to unwind and relax after the busy schedule of getting Spirit back together and sailing again.
Spirits CAIT and our visas were due to expire by the 31st of October so unfortunately we had limited time to spend in Indonesia. Even though a new system of cruising permits has been introduced since December 2016 we came in last year under the old system and we're still bound by its rules and regulations.
For this reason we watched the weather closely trying to find a good time to run north and head up towards Thailand where we had decided to spend the Southern Hemispheres NW monsoon. Given that everyone was talking about the early arrival of this years monsoon we were a little worried about how quickly we would be able to get out of Lombok and further to the north.
Over the last few days we've been enjoying all the festivities here and yesterday we went to a small Island about 40nm to the North of Ambon. And today we finished off by sailing back to Ambom which took us right around the Island completing a circumnavigation of Ambon. We had some great winds and great sailing. Here's a little from the last few days in and around Ambon.
Been having a great few days out around Ambon sailing and seeing some of the small off lying islands. Nash is with us until the 21st so we thought we'd make a run for it and have a few days away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the pollution of the harbour. It's probably the one thing that really depresses is here. There is just so much plastic and pollution in the water you could never fathom it unless you see it. There's litter everywhere and plastic bottles and bags are seen in every part even the remote offshore lying islands, which just kills you to see as you know that's it's an issue that won't be solved until plastic is abolished its the norm here and a way of life for the locals so we need to either accept it or move on.
Two weeks were spent in Darwin where we fixed some small items and prepared Spirit for the run to Ambon. After two months we were pretty excited to be there and couldnt wait for race day. I had arrange for two good mates to come along and race with us. One of them Murray had done the race nine times previously and is a great sailor and Nash has done bow on yachts such as Wild Thing and Living Doll and is more used to punching his way to Hobart than reaching into the tropics as we hoped to for the 600nm to Ambon.
This is pretty much what the race is known for the 600nm of blast reaching in ideal tropical conditions and one of the main reason we wanted to do the race. A few hours around the cans is fun but days of reaching deep off the wind with blue skies and warm winds is hard to beat! My parents had also decided to join us in darwin and we our shore race crew and support, which definitely helped things run smoother prior to race day.
The weather was watched daily and it wasn't looking good. The forecast was light..... super light with deep angles. Not great but hey it was warm and we were going to have loads of fun. Unfortunately the boat we thought may give us a good run for line honours was unable to race and so we were left to tussle with the two large monos, one being the year previous winner and race record holder for monohulls Antipodean the Santa Cruz 72 and the Inglis Walk on the Wild Side, which also once held the monohull race record. Our game plan was easy get out and away from Darwin as quick as we could. If the grib files and weather forecast was correct we only had until 6pm to get around Bathurst Island after that we would be sailing into a huge hole.
The start was a bit crude and we along with nearly all the other mulihulls missed the one minute gun so ended up being a little late for the start, thankfully we had 600nm to go! It was a slow drift out of Darwin harbor and up to the channel. From there the wind went north west and slowly as we sailed out into the bay swung around to the sw and increased to about 10-12kts. Once the wind had swung and settled it gave us around a 40-50 apparent angle which was pretty hot for our small reacher but we carried it as far as we could and slowly hauled in the big two monos which had put an early lead on us of about five miles. Just as the sun was setting we rounded the sw corner of Bathurst Island sitting on 14-16kts it was at this time we slid under both Walk on the Wild Side first and Antipodean second. The feeling was incredible to be getting passed them while on such a great angle and at such speed.
For a time we were a little worried about what would happen once we had cracked off and started to run deeper. Even though Spirit is an ex-formula 40 she's now got all the mod cons and is more so a cruiser so her weights a little on the heavy side, which in turn really effects her speed in the light and even more so when running deep. This to us was our archillies heel. So it was good to find out just after sunset and after we had all turned to run along the rumb line north that we were able to hold them off and run just as deep if not deeper and just a little faster.
The first night brought with it up and down conditions. At times the wind died to near nothing and we just floated along at the mercy of the sea then a zeffer would come in and wed start to move again. We just hopped that the boats behind had similar conditions to us. Both Walk on the Wild Side and Antipodean had AIS transponders onboard so when they were within about ten miles we could see them but over night we had lost them and as the wind had pushed us further west we werent sure that they hadnt passed us to the east. which was feasible if they'd managed to find a spot more wind. Thats the big problem when racing in super light airs it doesnt take much for you opponent to get passed you if theres next to no wind all they need is some!
After a few hours we spotted Antipodean on the horizon astern of us and also on the AIS again. It was reassuring to see that overnight we'd gone from 4nm to 7nm lead and that they didnt seem to be gaining on us. It was abouth noon when we had to decide on a route through the islands. Do we stay on this course and go in between two islands where theres a small passage about a mile and where theres bound to be major currents and wind effects or do we come up and run hotter and go to the east in the clear of land masses and in clear breeze. As you can imagine we opted for the safer and latter one. And as the day progressed the wind got light and made the choice easier allowing us to remain powered up and doing good speed for a few hours. It was during this time in the afternoon that we made some more progress on the other boats. We were sitting on solid 14-16s again for a few hours which got us a solid nine to ten mile lead on the larger monos.
The night again brought shifty conditions with the wind osscilating from SSE to S and from 6-10kts true speed, which makes going fast hard work. when the winds changes direction and the boats are on your tail you question the gybe your on and are always looking for what you can do to get things going faster. Its hard work and is very consuming this is where the experience of the crew comes into it. Having murray and nash whom have both done an incredible amount of top level sailing with some big names supplying solid tactics comes into its own. Racing really is a team sport and to have fellow crew whom can give good positive input about how the boats going with regard to wind and sea conditions is crucial and something we are very thankful of. it Just gives a more unified feeling onboard and gives confidence to the decision being made.
The next morning we felt good but we felt as though we werent able to pull away as our lead didnt seem to extend more than ten miles. The light breeze made it hard but as we approached Ambon having murray onboard proved to be a godsend. We were running well high of the rhumb line and were pretty much on a course for the eastern side of Ambon. Ambon harbor is on the west coast 30nm away so we needed to gybe. But when to gybe was the question. With Murray firmly believing that the wind would go east as we closed the coast the decision was made to carry on and head high of the rhumb line. About 60nm out from Ambon we got some cloud cover in small patches, it was just becoming dark now and it was our second night at sea. The green glow from the phosphorus was incredible as it peeled its way from the centerboard below the mainhull and blitzed off the rudder flying out from the stern as though we were being powered by a large water jet. We had dolphins jumping alongside and with the green streaking off them it was like someone had shot torpedoes at us. The cloud cover approached us and once we were below these little puffy white balls wed get an extra few knots of wind and leap forward hitting 18kts. The large reacher was still up as it was for 99% of the race but early on once the wind shifted east we dropped it and went for the small flat reacher. it was pretty much perfect condition for the little reacher as we neared ambon. We had about 14-16kts true, which gave us well over 20's apparent coming over the deck. Spirit was hitting high teens and we were loving it. We knew if we could hold this up we'd be pulling away some more and giving ourselves a good margine for the light air sail into Ambon.
Anyone thats done this race knows that its pretty much three races in one. Getting out of Darwin being the fist big challenge, the Timor Sea and getting to Ambon the next and finally into Ambon harbor which I believe has taken some boats in the past a day to complete the final 6nm from the entrance to the finish. This was a place we knew we could loose if we got parked and the boats that were sailing close behind caught up, so the lead up to Ambon was a little nerve racking. The other fun part is Indonesias love for FAD's, which are virtually anything they like tethered to the bottom to attract fish. these floating fish attraction devices are anchored as far as 20nm off shore and in water 2000m deep, since being here we've seen them made from bamboo and steel and the size of cars. So as you enter Ambon sitting on 14-18kts with the other boats close behind you never feel like you have it in the bag as you know theres so much that can go wrong. Again this is where having Murray onboard was essential. He'd been there and done the race so many times he knew what to expect. The FAD's around Ambon seem to mostly be lit so with sharp look outs posted we weaved out way into the entrance of Ambon harbor.
More solid advice from Murray was to stay well wide of the southern shores of the entrance here the wind creates a hole and leaves you dead in the water. We crept along the norther side of the harbor unbelievably staying in the breeze. We put the reacher away and drifted in under jib. As we made our way slowly up the harbor we felt incredibly lucky to have wind most the way and as we neared the northern shore and spooted the finish to the south the wind came in from the north west and gave us a great angle to the finish. You couldn't have asked for more it was as though we had someone watching over us and just as we sailed into the finish the wind died completely and we ghosted over the line. The hooter went off and fireworks blasted into the sky. We'd done it two days and ninteen hours to complete the 611nm that we had covered. Finishing was such a relief as we had been on edge the complete race with the large monos nipping away at our heels the pressure really was on for hte whole race.
With the Darwin to Ambon now comlete we have had lots of time to let it all sink in. The welcome we got from the locals and friends we have made is priceless. For anyone with a dream similar to ours I can't recommend this race more. Whether your on a fast trimaran, solid old mono of something inbetween this is a race where everyone wins. The prize here is the experience at the other end. The smiling faces of the kids the amazing Indonesia food, the welcome Ambon gives, the parites at the mayors and govenors homes it just cant be desribed in words it's an epereience and one we can't recommened more.
Not only for us has this race been unforgetable but also for the lcoals we met and that get to share in the race. For the people of Amahusu this race is something they love dearly. They love welcoming the yachts and meeting all the crews and they show it with the open hearts and huge smiles.
Spirit will be back and next time we hope for stronger winds and a race record! From Ambon Spirit has continued her crusing west and now she lies in Lombok for the off season.
We launched Spirit after an intensive refit in the Whitsundays on the 26th of June 2015. After six months of hard hot work we had turned the boat into our perfect cruising machine. we'd made the interior larger and created a cockpit that could hold more than two people at once and where you actually had a place to sit comfortably. It was a great time hard work but well worth it even after a week of sailing around the <whitsundays as our shakedown sail.
For some months we had been debating what to do once we were in the water. Our cruising permit was running out in October and we only had three months to get to wherever it was we were going to depart from. We looked at sailing to the solomons and up to png but couldn't really find a suitable place to be able to leave Spirit in December if work commitments panned out. For some reason there was a still an itch from when I was a kid and used to read my old mans multihull magazines and the amazing stories and photos that would always accompany the race article about Darwin to Ambon yacht race.
My partner Claudia and I looked it up and found that this year they decided to postpone the race until September the 5th, super this fitted in with our timeline and allowed us a good amount of time to sail from Airlie Beach to Darwin. It also allowed for us to have an easy entry into Indonesia to as the race organizers very helpfully do most of the hard yards and organising for you. The race fee is also very modest and they welcome all kinds of sailing craft, which we love.
The winter months were starting to show in the Whitsundays with nightly temperatures down below 10! it was with much haste that we departed Airlie Beach bound for the north. We made fast time to Magnetic Island where we caught up with our good mate Wazza onboard Barefoot, his awesome green machine. From here we decided to take the inland route up inside of Hitchenbrook Island, something we hadn't done before but highly recommend to anyone with the time and draft. It was a quick trip from Dunk Island to Cairns where we provisioned and stocked up for the longer passages to Siesa.
It was a standard trip north with cold winds blowing the normal 25kts from the south east. There's always days where it blows five more or five less but for the trade wind season it was pretty text book. As we got up to Lizard Island and around Cape Melville and Flattery it pickes up another five knots and the seas got a little steeper. After a beautiful few days in Lizard Island we high tailed it to the Flinders group and then from there Cape Grenville and onto Albany Island. What made the trip really good was the fact we could do all daylight passages from Airlie Beach to the top of Cape York. one of the biggest benifist for us is the ability to do high averages. We truly love to sail and to be able to sail fast in light airs. with the maximum passage distance from Airlie Beach to Albany Island being 110nm all we had to do was average 10kts to make the trips during daylight and when its blowing 20-30kts this is easily and safely maintainable.
There was some lovely stops on the way north and we really feel like we have to get back to this part of the world again when not in such a rush. Australia is so vast and has some many good anchorages and secluded places it takes years of cruising to see the majority of them. Siesa was a good stop and it was a surprisingly nice spot to be stopped for a few days of rest before crossing the Gulf. Theres good provisioning there and there's a lot of things to do like a trip to the top of Cape York should you have the need to get off the boat for a day. The fishing is good and theres some nice spots to anchor in the general area of Cape York. charts are good and the fishing is excellent just watch out for the crocs!
After waiting for the weather we decided to head out and make a run for Darwin direct. We had the options of stopping at the Wessels or Cape Don should the weather turn or we need a rest. As it turned out we had a great run apart from some residual swell that was coming from the southern end of the Gulf where they had strong winds. This is something to watch out for as it can be pretty short and steep even though you have god weather in the north sometimes they can have solid 30s in the south and it funnels up the Gulf.
With the following winds and good time being made we bypassed the Wessels and headed for Cape Don. We were getting into Darwin during the late night so felt that wed stop at Cape Don and leave early in the moring allowing us to enter darwin during the afternoon We did the last 100nm from cape don in twelve hours and it was one of those perfect afternoon sails as we entered darwin with the sun setting to the west in a blood red sky.
Been flat out lately trying to haul ass on the refit. Boats coming along well now with the small items being fitted and fairing and pairing starting to happen. Not long now we hope four more weeks and we will be looking at slipping into the water 😊
Since our last blog entry we've been going crazy working on Spirit. We've managed to finish the interior and exterior work with fairing and painting to go.
Over the coming few weeks we will fair and dry fit all the electronics and wiring along with pipes, pumps and our desalinator. The anchor winch will go on and also the anchor roller, new prodder, outboard mounting system and rigging. We've upgrade our battery system to 320ah of lithium and we'll power this with a simple system of 750watts of solar from Solbian.
The decision to change the inboard diesel wasn't and light one and we gave it loads of thought speaking to as many people as possible that had used both. In the end a simple two stroke 18hp Tohatsu was purchased that will supply more power for less than half the weight of the old diesel. The whole aim for us is to make the boat as easy as we can to live on, sail on, cook on and travel on. We love to lay around and relax so the seats are wide and comfortable making a bed when the table will be down. The nets are large and the aft net will now be supported by the aft radius beam making it a much more secure place to be.
Spirit will be a place of relaxation when at anchor and one that brings a smile to your face when sailing with the ease and speed at which she sails.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.