Darwin to Kupang
Sat 30 Jul 2016 06:19
Departure day and as predicted it was windless, the sun shone and if you were not wanting to sail 468 miles it would have been a totally perfect day. We upped anchor at just after 10.30 and got the mainsail up in readiness. The Start Line was to be marked by the tourist catamaran Spirit of Darwin which was to be full of Sail Indonesia helpers and guests. We had hoped to hoist the spinnaker and fly through but the windless day put paid to that idea! We heard the first warning signal at 10.50 followed by the hoisting of Code Flag P accompanied by a sound signal, then at 10.55 there was another preparatory signal and Numeral Pennant 1 was hoisted. 10.59 Code Flag P was lowered and 11.00 was the starting signal. We got the genoas out quick and headed towards the start line but were quickly passed by a stream of boats motoring, so we had no choice but to either put the motor on or flounder about just trying to get over the start line. There was a bit of a hiccup when a catamaran in front of us decided to stop and we nearly rammed it up the back but evasive action was swift and we headed over the start to a wonderful scene of everyone on the Spirit of Darwin waving and flashing cameras. The Union Jack was flying once more and as we were only 1 of 2 yachts from UK we got a big cheer. Then the fun started as we knew we would be racing the tide, high tide had been 8.30am so we only had it with us until the afternoon and we had a lot of sailing to do before we even left the river estuary which is the entrance into Darwin. We were determined to sail as much as possible because getting fuel in Indonesia is pretty much a nightmare – it all has to be jerry-jugged meaning huge amounts of diesel have to be bought to the boat and dispensed into the fuel tanks – there are no fueling stations to just drive the boat up to. Add to this is that fuel is notoriously contaminated, you then have the issue that everything has to be well filtered before it goes into the tank. We last experienced jerry-jugging in Galapagos and it was pretty horrible experience!
There was just about enough wind to get the genoas out on one side so we drifted along at about 4 knots as the rest of the group of yachts motor sailed into the distance. We made painfully slow progress and by the time the tide turned and we realised the boat was slipping back the way we had come there was no option but to put the motor on. We chugged on for 3 hours then got the sails out again as there was just enough wind once again. Sails were out until midnight then the wind more or less died and the motor came on.
Day 2 and if anything there was even less wind, it was another gorgeous hot sunny day and on we motored. Syd’s mood was black!!!!! Night fell and the sea resembled a lake, the moon shone and on we motored. We went onto our second tank of fuel during night 2 and as Day 3 dawned there was still no sign of wind. What had happened to the Timor Sea, we had expected lack of wind throughout Indonesia but this bit was supposed to be windy!
Day 3 and still NO WIND, the engine chugged on sounding decidedly unhappy and getting worryingly hot and Syd’s mood got blacker! We tried the sails out several times but there was not enough wind to make us move. Night fell and 3.00am there was enough wind and at last from the right direction to try again. Pole went out and the 2 genoas were put out. I awoke to a slightly better tempered Syd who was at last sailing again. The even better news was we could see land – a faint outline in the distance but Timor was in sight. As we neared the long entrance up to Kupang the wind had increased to 20+ knots so we got both genoas on one side and picked up speed into the channel. We had been warned of the fishing hazards but were surprised at the amount of them, buoys marking nets were everywhere and at one point nearly continued from one shore to the other. It was a hairy sail up but eventually we rounded a point and could see the Rally yachts who had already arrived (the ones who motored the whole way!). We did a few final tacks in winds now gusting 25+ knots and sailed right in in true Brit style.
The anchorage at Kupang was horrendous, it was mocking us having had to motor nearly the whole way from Darwin we were now to be punished as 25-30 knot winds howled straight through and the entire fleet rolled. We dropped our anchor at about 5.00pm and prepared for our first rolly night AT ANCHOR!
Thankfully the wind did die and we had a peaceful night. Day 4 and the wind started building in the horrible exposed rolly anchorage. We were informed that Customs and Quarantine were doing the rounds in some random fashion and could see a dinghy full of people who seemed more excited by the white knuckle ride they were experiencing in the wild sea than clearing in a load of yachts. So we waited and the wind got stronger. Customs continued seemingly selecting random boats to visit then disappeared for lunch! So we rolled around waiting and wishing we had not joined this Rally at all and had done what we have successfully done so far – made our own plans!
Surprisingly we did actually get a visit later that day from 2 guys who looked 15 but assured us they were old enough to be Customs men. Having managed to get on board with help from a passing dinghy we then had a bit of a problem when the 15 year olds decided they had seen enough and wanted to leave as their Customs launch could not get close enough to pick them up because of the wild sea. We devised an interesting plan and sent them both off in our dinghy with ropes attached, they bobbed around (still smiling) and eventually they were plucked out of the dinghy and safely dispatched to their mother ship.
Next day we went ashore and experienced Kupang for the first time. Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and the Harbour Master had been organized to all be in one room to speed up the process so the next 2 hours were spent doing the rounds with endless forms to fill in and rubber stamps being stamped in a rubber stamping frenzy. One last task for us, Customs had to pay one more visit to the boat before we were officially ‘cleared in’.
Kupang is a crazy place, traffic is mad with thousands of little buses operating and most of the rest of the population on scooters and mopeds, crossing the road is putting your life on the line. It is noisy and dirty but the people are lovely, smiling and happy and extremely curious. English is rarely spoken but somehow communication works. Moslems and Christians live side by side and the black market thrives. It is a million miles away from the rules and organization of Australia.