We are very excited to be ready to set sail. We are sailing in tandem with Phil and Robbie Mellett who are on Free Spirit II. We had our moments leaving Cullen Bay Marina, Darwin. Someone (for safety reasons) had turned off the fuel line so we had trouble starting, no power for stopping in the lock and then trouble getting to the dock for fuel. This all involved some anxious moments and we were very grateful to some nearby boats. [First, an old fishing boat moored next to us in the lock used by two men from Customs dressed as fishermen to question unsuspecting boats that may be trying to enter Australia illegally and, secondly, a small dive boat outside the lock that towed us to the fuel dock.]
Leaving Cullen Bay

We have a relaxed motor sail out of Darwin, across Beagle Gulf and into the Timor Sea. It is a glorious day. Some friendly young dolphins bade us goodbye. The sunset is spectacular. Then a bright young moon came up with Venus just above. The wind came into the south (it had been north of east), so there is the prospect of some good sailing tomorrow.

We had good strength of wind but a difficult day’s sailing with it right astern fluctuating with variance of up to 25ยบ. This makes it difficult to avoid jibbing, and so a day of gear crashing around. And also a very tired skipper!

We had two uneventful nights of sailing. Last night we enjoyed navigating through the oil rigs in the Timor Sea.

Today we have motor sailed with the headsail poled out – a much more relaxing day. We both have a lot of sleep to catch up on after 3 days and 2 nights at sea, but it has been a wonderful way to get ourselves into sailing mode again.

Coming into Kupang at 9pm in the dark proved very difficult. The winds were up to 30 knots and bringing in the foresail in these conditions was a problem – with their huge force on the headsail winding it in it required more length than the furling line had, so 1½ metres of sail was left unfurled. It is very upsetting to see a sail being flogged around like this and Ross couldn’t do anything about it in these winds, try as he might. We hoped to be in calmer conditions when we turned up the strait into Selat Semar, the strait between West Timor and Samau Island, but we weren’t.

The plan is to anchor in this strait because of the heavy boat traffic here at night and go quietly up to Kupang the next morning. There is not enough protection here and also the heavy boat population (mainly fishermen) is a problem. This is a navigational feat in itself, also hindered by the fishermen having long unlit dinghy’s hanging off the stern of their boats. Phil put his flashing strobe light on ahead of us which is a great help once we catch up with them.

It certainly is a wonderful feeling to be safely anchored with the sail tied securely, to have a celebratory drink once arriving at Timor and to tuck into bed for a very long and deep sleep.

Solving technical isues

The Mellett team, including their guest, David Hutchens, arrived on board next morning. What an amazing team. Robbie brought her sewing machine over, and with Hutch as her assistant does a very professional job to mend the sail. Ross has already done the heavy, hard sewing. Phil sorts out our electrical issues. Fortunately, we have the same boats, Buizen 48’s, and after difficulty he recognizes our invertor has blown. This was new, and he has experienced the same problem, so we organize to have a new one sent to Bali. Phil and Robbie’s next guests are bringing it as excess luggage! How lucky are we!
Repairing sail

We hear from another nearby yacht (French) that there is a problem with Customs when we plan to clear Customs for Indonesia. We think that because the officer here was overlooked in some decisions for the Darwin to Indonesian rally starting on Saturday he has his nose out of joint. It is claimed he was first requesting to be paid 50% of the value of each boat, then 40% and then down to 5%, which is still exorbitant. None of us have any intention of paying this amount. We are advised to sail on to Bali.

We decide to go ashore for lunch. We take our papers to clear Customs in case there are any queries.

We are met on shore by a group of lively young Indonesian men who take the dinghy up the beach, take our rubbish and offer to look after our dinghies for the day. We enjoy their lovely beaming smiles and their dark, bright eyes. (There is a cost, of course!).

Having been told there is nothing at Kupang, Ross and I enjoyed walking down the main street by the seaside through the bustling, narrow street lined with stalls of all descriptions like a market. There were local people everywhere, many squatting and talking outside the shops. Many bimos, small, colourful van-like buses with a young man hanging out the side travelled up and down the street tooting and looking for business. One was yellow and called ”Fuckin Bitch”.

The scaffolding for new buildings is many thin, tree trunks as uprights.
Scaffolding in Kupang

We were amazed at the sight of a guy on a motor scooter passing by holding a long rod across the handlebars with many chooks tied upside down by their feet on each side squawking loudly in objection.

We enjoyed a relaxed lunch with the local beer (Bintang) overlooking the sea.

One of the young men who met our dinghy on the beach turned out to be our self-appointed facilitator. He kept turning up next to us on his motorbike. He wanted to show us the bank and then a restaurant. We had already chosen a restaurant attached to a hotel about 500 metres up the road, but he went ahead as though he had introduced us there, presumably for a fee. Then he helped translate the menu and offered to change our $AUS for rupiah, again, for a generous fee. He headed off to try to facilitate Customs and Quarantine clearance but when we got back to the beach he had only the quarantine man in tow. We did not want to deal with him unless we could deal with Customs at the same time.

An English couple were at the bar by the beach. They were apparently prepared to wait until Monday for an interview with Customs. We decided we were better off leaving in the morning and taking our chances clearing Customs at Bali.

We had an afternoon snooze, gave up the idea of going back onshore for dinner, had a drink on Impulsive and an early night after a light meal. (The Admiral has lost none of her culinary talents).

SUNDAY, 21 JULY 2007

We woke early to the call to morning prayers. It was difficult to tell how strongly Muslim Kupang is but there were signs of Christianity (in the form of paintings and a street-side funeral). Not many of the women wore Muslim clothing.

The team from Free Spirit came and helped us erect the headsail and we set off at about 8.30am for another overnight sail. We sail out of Kupang with the wind from south of east at about 20 knots. With the wind directly astern we goose-winged the sails on our course to Sumba. Unfortunately, the overnight sail is disrupted by a few problems with the increase of the winds. The Melletts furling mechanism for their mainsail fails and they have quite a time dropping the sail and tying it down onto the deck.

We have the headsail furling problems again, but we finally solve it. We managed to bring the sail in which is quite a strenuous exercise. It involves Ross balancing on the pulpit and at the same time reaching up to grab the end of the sail which is flapping in the wind. We think this is what caused a sudden onset of severe back pain which was quite debilitating for a while. He seemed fully recovered the next morning after icing, some medication and a good sleep. Ross manages to set up a new furling system – a great feat by bringing some makeshift blocks forward on the deck so the furling line is now long enough.

We are all pleased to finally anchor at Sumba by mid-afternoon. This island still preserves its traditional customs and is virtually unspoiled.

We anchor off the wharf at the capital, Waingapu. There is constant traffic, chugging sounds from the long fishing boats, and happy smiles and waves from the Indonesian men on these.
Sumba main street
We walk through the town. It proves a good time to do this as the young children are out playing, and adults are out and about, washing up and chatting. We come across streets lined each side with deep concrete gutters to cope with the heavy rains in the wet season, beautiful bougainvillea, goats, dogs and chooks. We see the local schools and are invited into the remand centre. We actually decline the offer but it was interesting to chat outside it. The small local buses are everywhere.

Phil and Hutch have been ashore too finding the only internet place available to send information about the broken furling piece. They have also done some investigating for our plans here.

Tonight, after a relaxing drink on Phil and Robbie’s boat we go ashore to a fish "restaurant" on the wharf overlooking the small port and ocean. These small cafes are set up each night and they encourage you to choose your own fresh fish, which they barbeque and serve with rice and salad. The atmosphere is wonderful. The guys enjoy the Bintang beer here. We have seen no other tourists.
Night fish market
MONDAY, 23 JULY 2007

Today we set off early to go ashore to meet a guide and 2 cars and their drivers. The plan is to take a 3½ hr driving trip to West Sumba to see a traditional village and something of their traditions, houses, ceremonies and tombs. Also, West Sumba is greener and more fertile than the east which is very dry.

The day is off to an excellent beginning as the Melletts can dislodge the broken part and the guide takes us all to a welder who thinks he can fix it. (This is a better way to meet some of the locals).

We first visit a place where they make their own dyes, and then make a woven textile which used to be made for special ceremonies, e.g. to dress a corpse for a funeral. These take months to produce.
Woven and dyed textiles
The car trip was well worth it. The guide gave us a mountain of information all the way and there was much of interest to see: the changes in vegetation to the more fertile land, the rice paddies and the bullocks, houses, ploughs and workers; the famous sandalwood trees – these were the only cure for venereal diseases before the discovery of penicillin; the buses and trucks carrying too many people with some hanging off the side; women walking by the roadside with small children and carrying baskets on their heads; and many traditional thatched roofed houses with high peaks to accommodate the spirits. A highlight is stopping to see a funeral procession with the bullock to be sacrificed in the truck and the musicians following behind.

Local Sumba bus

Lunch in a small restaurant at Waikabukak is very delicious and with lovely people there. Many people walked in with goods to sell from the local farms – a man carrying live chooks and several women with baskets on their heads looking very elegant with their lovely posture.

The native horses fascinate us. They are small, fine, very quick and all seem to have quiet natures. We have seen many little children on them. We were fascinated to hear a taller version we saw is bred from the native horse, the Arab horse and an Australian horse.
A traditional village
The traditional village is fascinating and we are fortunate to see a pre-wedding ceremony here. I find the offering of a pig to the spirits all a bit much, but there are many other points of interest, e.g. coffee and rice laid out in the sun to dry, the men playing cards and many little children.

We were shown inside one of the houses. It had four big upright trunks (representing the position inside of the man, his wife, their sons and their daughters) and bamboo poles for flooring. There were seats and beds covered with mats and a central cooking area. A number of pigs lived below. An old woman with a red stained mouth from betel nut tried to sell us some trinkets and offered us some betel nut.

It is very close living in this traditional village, but the people all seem gentle natured and content so they must learn to get on well together.

Children in the traditional village
The market at the nearby town is a hub of colour and activity, hundreds of stalls selling dried fish, vegetables, eggs, fruit, grated coconut to name a few things; old women with betel nut stained mouths, savvy young women interspersing sales and text messaging on mobile telephones; hundreds of motorcycles often with a mother and several small children clinging on; a man who wanted to sell us a fighting cock; four hens tied together so they could only walk in a circle; a man leading a (rather disgruntled) pig by a rope around its front leg. The Melbourne Occupational Health and Safety people would suffer apoplexy, but it is a refreshingly simple, natural, good humoured and contented section of humanity.

We arrive back at Waingapu in time to collect Phil’s welded furling piece and patronise a different fish restaurant at the waters edge.

The attached notes (from the internet) provide more detail of the history and religious traditions of the Sumbranese. We feel privileged being here.