Sat 7 Aug 2010 09:23
Recent anchorage 03:43.5S 128:08.7E Amahusu, three miles south of central Ambon
Current position 04:44.5S 125:10E
Todays date: possibly it is Sat, 7th August?
Take the title as you wish, babble certainly, but abominable? Well, only the torrential rain during our entire stay in this city of nearly 300,000 souls. Curiously it is just about the only part of Indonesia to enjoy predictable heavy rain during August, but this info had escaped my attention. Most participants saw the Ambon destination as a duty on the tour rather than as a pleasure: we knew that our visit was timed to coincide with a Regional Tourist Conference that the President of the Country would be attending, but in retrospect I for one was very glad that we made the trip.
We arrived late afternoon, and had real difficulty trying unsuccessfully to anchor off the Central Fishermans Wharf, 'Med style', but in 50 metres of water! I think we would have needed 100 metres plus of continuous chain. So I rowed ashore leaving Hannah in charge of the precariously anchored yacht, and as before found the way well smoothed by the organisers: 'cleared in' in 10 minutes flat, a record for any third world Port, surely? Back to the boat and we motored down to Amahusu, a suburb of Ambon with fairly shoal ground offshore: we anchored in about 20 metres, and we are now quite slick at the chain and long anchor warp shackle manouvre: the trick is to use a chain hook and the genoa winches at the back of the boat to take the strain, rather than my right hand!! Found ourselves in the company of the smaller half of the fleet, who like us cannot carry the ground tackle for really deep anchoring. Too late to go ashore so supper in the rolling swell, and well deserved bed. Early morning visit from the military: we must join the Predidential sail past: !st Navy, 2nd Merchant shipping, 3rd Sail Indonesia yachts. They wanted us to have some sails up and to have our children on display. So with only one child I thought that only one sail would be ok, and just as well in the ensuing downpour and fitful gusting wind mostly on the nose. When we finally got abreast of the Presidents Podium they had all turned round to enjoy the buffet! Back down to the anchorage where as usual the faster boats grabbed the best spots, but we tucked in nicely about 70 metres behind a big Australian ketch. That evening we all came ashore and transferred to taxis for a nerve jangling express trip to town for a Gala Concert and Dinner. The taxis were late, and clearly under orders to take no prisoners on the roads. There seem to be few rules of the road, except to start and finish on the left side. We saw one set of traffic lights, and no rounabouts. Drivers make two types of horn sound. The first is quite angry and means that you can cut in front of me if you can, but woe betide you if you fail, or interfere with me in any way. The second sound is a very angry noise indeed and this means that if you try to cut in front of me I will kill you.
The Gala concert was a repaeat of our Banda Experience: traditional dancing, costume displays, and popular music. A good hot buffet however, with chocolate cake and nutmeg jam banana splits for pudding. No alcohol, of course, this is a very Muslim part of the world. Taxis home more difficult to arrange, but finally tumbled back into our dinghy, and then into bed. Woken at 5am by shouts and flashlights: ?Secret Police ?President not happy about only one sail hoisted? No, just the Australian ketch dragging his anchor, and lying about 5 metres off our starboard side. Do you think you are going to hit us enquired the crew of my by now partially clothed little body. 'Me hit you? YOU are dragging' said I, 'You need to ge't your anchor up and move'. 'No can do' replyed the crew, 'None of us can even start the engine, and the skippers drunk and sleeping it off ashore!' So muggins had to lift his anchor and move again. Yes, pitch dark, pouring rain. No, it wasn't easy.
Next day it was raining harder than ever; Matt, Jo and her mother Fiona from 'Island Time' had befreinded us, and we took a bemo (minivan bus) to town. I checked out, and we went to Ambon Plaza: a shopping Mall with an extraordinarily modern Australian style supermarket in the back. Also an ATM machine which as usual rejected my Loyds bank card. Never, never take a Lloyds bank card to this part of the world. The manager of the Redditch Branch of Lloyds TSB is going to get a very angry horn sound from me when I get home.
Ambon in the rain is a great steaming place full of pedestrians, bicycle rickshaws, small buzzing motorcycles and vans, trucks, cars, and minibuses. Pavements, where they exist, are occupied be street vendors selling every concievable item from fish heads to computer spares. There are no significant sights as such, but the entire trip was an experience not to be missed. Although missed it was by Hannah, who played with latest new friend Giang, on the catermaran La Orana. That evening an excellent supper at Bertie's beach shack, recomended by the Aussie contingent as having the cheapest beer in town. Comparisons are quite easy, as there is only one beer available, called Bintang, I think. It comes in a huge bottle, but doesn't seem too strong
Next day still raining and from Matt's very sophisticated computers, forecasts of much wind and lumpy seas outside. We decided to stay another day, a sound move, as the fuel promised for 11.00 hours in the morning finally turned up in Amahusu at dusk. During the day we returned to town, using Matts dinghy this time, which proved a lot quicker than transport ashore, and probably not much wetter. Success at the ATM, following yet another £10 mobile phone call to Lloyds Bank Fraud Squad. A dozen yachties with probably 40 jerrycans between them made a colourfull sight, pumping and filtering diesel from a tanker truck in the middle of the evening rush hour. That evening we had supper in the local Lonely Planet recomended hotel: mildly expensive, but very tasty, and Hannah persuaded them to cook her two fried eggs, fried both sides. Jo also likes eggs: showing great resolve she wandered into the local village brandishing an empty egg carton and some 1,000 rupiah notes. It took less than three minutes for the locals to rustle up twelve still warm eggs from the pens which are attached to prety well every dwelling. Delightful and friendly poeple; when I fell out of the dinghy a fisherman was there to help me, when I fell down a hole in the road, a policeman hauled me out. Yes, there is no pothole like an Indonesian pothole, and of course no health and safety, so no barriers or warnings. Very sadly loads of plastic rubbish everywhere.The planet will surely drown in plastic.
Next day off at 08.40, a rather miserable start with variable wind in Ambon Bay, but finally we settled down to a very robust beam reach towards Wangi Wangi: an Island in the Wakatobi Groug, about three hundred miles off. As I write we are approaching the end of our second day at sea, a remarkable first days run of 148.4 miles has opened up a new set of chain plate leaks on the port side of the boat, so now all the cabin headlinings are off and stacked in the forepeak, and a funnel is collecting the drips from the underdeck bolts and delivering them to an empty water bottle. I must send a photo to Northshore, the builders, they might like to use it in one of their adverts!
Keeping our fingers crossed for the final days of our trip to Bali, we have to report to Mrs Blunt on the 17th if possible! With light winds likely next week north of Flores it will be a close thing. We will keep you posted.