Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is renowned for diving. It's also a huge area with relatively few people. So far, we have been to a couple of spots in Wayag and an isolated anchorage called Uranie. Any one of these anchorages could be used as a base for weeks upon weeks of diving. The other day, we were with our friends on Field Trip, talking about our cruising experiences (they have been out six years to our five). We all marveled at how many more cruising boats there were in the U.S. and Caribbean than in this neck of the woods. Here, there are live aboard dive boats, fishing boats, and tourist speed boats. We even met some of the crew from the jaw-dropper Octopus, owned by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. But, besides each other, we have seen only three other cruising boats in the month or so that we have been in Raja Ampat.

True to its reputation, the diving has not disappointed. The variety and number of coral and fish is impressive. In many cases, it seems the best diving corresponds with strong currents. It is good to have two boats of certified divers and two dinghies so that we can coordinate the best way to approach various dives, including having someone sit in the dinghy during some dives (thanks Mary Ellen and E!).

On one recent dive, Matt and Mark on Field Trip got a good long look at a wobbegong shark who patiently sat still like a well behaved dog while Matt clicked off photo after photo from just inches away. Unfortunately, Matt's footage was lost when the Faux Pro (an Akaso--a less expensive Go Pro-like camera) went missing somewhere between when Matt hooked it onto his BCD and when he got back to the boat. The camera wasn't expensive but finding a replacement in these parts isn't going to happen. I'll save the story about the expensive Ikelite camera housing and strobe debacle for another time. Let's just say that Ikelite is a bad word around here lately.

Since Sorong, we have celebrated Thanksgiving and Mark's tenth birthday. We're waiting to hear from a haul-out facility in Indonesia before we decide if and when we go to Darwin. Something as simple as a price quote gets to be very complicated without a cell phone signal and not speaking the local language.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Idiot Tax

The first replacement Automatic Voltage Regulator
Our friend Matt Myren refers to The Lottery as the 'Idiot tax.' We apparently have our own version of the 'Idiot Tax' on Perry. Basically, it's the extra money (and time) we spend because we are too optimistic about how well any given boat project will go (and consequently how long it will take and cost). But moreso, we really need to learn that if it ain't (completely) broke, don't try to fix it.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Around Sorong

Sorong is not a picturesque city, but it has a lot of energy. It is our first stop in 'Asia' and the differences with the Pacific Islands we have frequented in the last couple years are a shock to our systems. There is much more of everything: supplies, cars, roads, people, pollution, garbage.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Tricks for Treats

Conrad is Napolean (I think the others are self-explanatory).

Halloween this year was in the middle of our long haul from Papua New Guinea to Sorong. We had been sailing during the day and stopping at night to avoid the logs that had wreaked havoc on our propeller and engine. We were with our friends on Field Trip again and had hoped to have another beach party like we had the previous year. The beach we found had a great surf but was all but nonexistent at high tide.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

How much does it cost to swim with whale sharks?

Mark with a 'small' whale shark
On the journey from Vanimo to Sorong, we visited Cenderawasih Bay, where big fishing platforms/boats called Bagan attract whale sharks. We got to swim with a couple of 'small' ones that were about 12 feet long. The fishermen threw little baitfish on top of us as we swam in the water so that the sharks would come right up to you. It was disconcerting to see a huge mouth headed for your face, even if it wasn't filled with big teeth.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Officially official

Google translate app is a godsend when trying to deal with the officials!

We are all officially checked into Indonesia (for 60 days at least). Indonesia is definitely up there with having some pretty serious bureaucracy. There are lots of officials that want to come onto the boat and lots of paperwork. They really love stamps here (think ink stamps, not postage) and no document is official until you give it a stamp with your boat name on it. Fortunately, our friends on Field Trip did a lot of the heavy lifting for us when they got here a day earlier. So we knew where to go and what we needed to do. Even still, it took a full day starting at 7:30 and going straight through until 5:00 before we were all checked in.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bump on a log

Not our log, just one floating by at anchor. The
picture doesn't do justice to how big it is but the one
that got us was much bigger.
When I was growing up, we knew a Filipino family with the surname 'Alog'. The running joke was to come up with new names for kids that went with 'Alog' (think 'Sit on', 'Trip on'). Yes it was juvenile, but we were kids.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Crabby Mary, Quite Contrary

More updates via the sat phone!  Sorry, but no pics for now...

As we approach two weeks straight on the boat since leaving Ninigo, with a brief stop in Vanimo and a beach visit, the natives are getting restless. The kids seem to be bickering at the drop of a hat, and Matt and I are--try as we might--not too far behind (do as I say, not as I do?--yup, right here). Although we have had other passages that were almost as long and, in the case of our trip across the Pacific, much longer, this one is different.

On our other long journeys, even the uncomfortable week-long passage to New Zealand, we didn't have the same stress factors. There have been many moving targets (logs), frequent unpredictable squalls popping up willy nilly (usually in the wee hours when we're extra tired) and wreaking havoc, and almost constant wind shifts. On top of all that, we are navigating a new language and culture during our brief rest stops. This is the first place we have visited where the language isn't one we have some familiarity with (Spanish or French) and where almost no one seems to speak English.

Hitting a log and damaging the boat doesn't help things (blog post to follow when we get Internet).

I could just be blocking out the unpleasant parts of our other longer voyages, like the pain of child birth. Anyway, I think we'll all survive this trip without anyone getting thrown overboard (except in our fantasies perhaps). Reading back over this post makes me realize that I have made things sound a lot worse than they really are. We're doing pretty well, though everyone will be happy to stop and relax a bit. Gotta go--it's early to rise tomorrow to start the final 200-mile leg to Sorong. There's no wind predicted, but that's better than a headwind.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Vanimo to Indonesia

Our last stop in Papua New Guinea was Vanimo, on the mainland of Papua. We had mostly avoided the mainland because of its reputation for high crime. We spent most of our time in remote islands. Our friend Sarah on Field Trip likened it to visiting the United States and going to Hilton Head, while avoiding Chicago and New York.

We had to go to Vanimo to get our Indonesia visas. Although Vanimo is considered safe during the day, a cruising boat had been robbed at night earlier in the year. So we (along with Field Trip) resolved to get there and out in one day.

We left Ninigo Friday evening. After the first evening (when we caught a nice wahoo) the wind died down and we mostly made our way slowly at about 2 knots, which was all from the current. We motored the last few hours so that we could get to Vanimo in time to get to the consulate when it opened.

We were successful (despite the Indonesian consulate's leisurely opening time) and were pulling up anchor with time to spare.

Around the second day on our journey to Indonesia, the auto-pilot started having fits. Matt figured out that the rudder transducer was sending wrong signals to the autopilot so that it was not turning when it should. Fortunately, the auto-pilot seems to work without the port rudder transducer, except that it has fits when we are going very slowly (which seems to be a lot of the time lately!).