Biak to Rajah Ampat

Sailing from Biak directly to Rajah Ampat takes us a bit off-piste as we ended up taking a more direct route over the top of Waigeo. Off piste and over “The Line” again……and again as Tyrii comes up with another idea, who can sail along 00, 00, 0000 longest without falling off, sounds good to me………….. let’s never grow up!
Timing is everything and route planning up here is a window job, wind is either full on or full off, tide is strong and seemingly in need of organisation. Combine the two and you can throw your route planning out the window.
So we had to either heave to or park up overnight, we threw some tea leaves on the chart and followed the direction of the longest one into a bay, charts are great, they are two dimensional, I can cope with this, driving into Arago, this bay has a name I can spell and pronounce, a third dimension is encountered, it’s the uppity one, the vertical one, 2-3000′ of it, sometimes sheer from the sea but in this case a small beach was to be seen under the vertiginous surfaces. Sand! Perfect we all cry, I am wary, experience tells me beware the topography, what goes on above ground is normally a good indication of what the sea-bed is up to. Eventually after much debate we decided to drop the hook into 6 mtrs-sand just to the left of the really big bommie leaving us room to swing round right onto the family of smaller bommies, Audrie tells me I have a special look when it’s not just right…
The oven was fired up and Team Pizza goes into action, Tyrii is our Doughman, Aeneas is the Toma-toer, all conducted by head-chef and domestic goddess, Audrie. I quickly improvise and create a man job that sounds important, words like “check” and “gen-locker” “voltage” are thrown around as I finger a beer from the fridge and head up onto the foredeck…..
After a truly wonderful meal, the first gusts fall off the hills, later this is joined by a squall with horizontal rain, our pizza restaurant is turned into hell’s kitchen with the boat whipping around the hook, an impressive group of fishing boats arrive to take shelter from the outside, they are long, 30 feet and tented through the middle, they surround us peering out of the rain, their psychedelic lights flashing everywhere adding a slightly surreal element to a very real situation. We are a great attraction, not may sailors come this way.
In three years we haven’t quit an anchorage at night, a vote was taken, usual sailors fashion, mine’s worth two and yours doesn’t count, are you listening Donald? unanimous, “LUGTFOOH”, was initiated. Thank you Sass planet for giving us the ability to unwind the chain from the bommies and steer the boat out of a pitch black, wet, reef strewn hole into open sea, the fishermen thought we were crazy as we almost ran them over whilst exiting, all great fun in the cold light of day………………………what short memories we have!
We adopted a virtual hove to position all night (whilst the “cats and bats with sticks” threw their worst from the mountain tops; hey we have Kids:-), sailing at 2 knts to avoid rafting ourselves onto a tree trunk, it’s not “IF” but “WHEN” sailing at night through Indo. Sounds a bit dramatic but during the day there at times when you have to hand steer through the forest.
Light brings energy, and, the ability to read the pilot book, Auds finds another island that promises to be a bit more yacht friendly, Kawe, after arguing for an hour about the pronunciation we decide on KAAAAWWWE’, it has three anchorages marked in the guide, A,B and C, inspirational stuff, one of them is in sand and mud 9-15 mtrs with all-round protection, it’s anchorage “A”. We dance a small jig together both thinking the same thoughts, “uninterrupted sleep tonight”
Surely as an author and provider of maritime information, if you had visited Kawe you would have given its anchorage a more suitable name. And surely if you had visited you would have used a depth sounder rather than a “Wizards Wish-Stick” to measure the depth, not this author this time it would seem, we sounded 37-50 mtrs right to the head of the bay, which incidentally was very open to our current SE’ster, I wasn’t prepared to take soil samples to further destroy the Guides’ veracity.
Moving swiftly along, we now have 20+ knots on the beam and an opposing tide as we head for Wayag (a fish is caught and lost, it was huge and tasty) the jewel in Indonesia’s crown, our fingers are crossed as we sail for this Limestone labyrinth, 3 hours later we surf the breakers accompanied by a pod of dolphins into the most beautiful anchorage we have ever seen, first impression in the sunlight, it looks almost artificial, its soooooo chintzy, every island is velvety green, they all appear to float as the architect of this Archipelago fitted shadow gaps to every island, the shapes are surely manmade. Nope its just mother nature showing off, Tyrii’s first words, “Daddy I want to live here”, say no more. Oh, just one more thing, TODAY, IT’S ALL OURS!

Another week in Biak

The last few days, the wind has been blowing from the West (i.e. from the direction we want to go to). No point going anywhere until we get the easterlies back. On top of that Seathan and Tyrii both had a dose of man-flu and had to take it easy for a few days. So plenty of reasons to stay put for a while. It’s also been raining a lot, a continuous drizzle (not enough to fill the tanks but enough to stop the sun from coming out and topping up batteries). Anyway, we’re in a good anchorage, a few miles away from the town centre where we can have our daily swim (the water is crystal clear here) and where we don’t hear the early morning blaring speakers of the mosque or the military music they broadcast several times a day. Biak itself is a cozy town with friendly locals. We’re not complaining.

After some advice from fellow cruisers we decided to give Sorong a miss. Apparently it is a smelly, dirty, large and stretched out city with nowhere safe to leave the dinghy when going ashore. In the meantime we’ve slowly been discovering more of Biak and eventually found everything we need here: LPG, diesel, petrol, cheese, milk (the powdered variety), plenty of fresh produce, cereals, coffee, beer, and even some Scottish whiskey (and cheaper than back home).

Finally, the weather forecast is playing ball and the easterlies are back. Raja Ampat awaits!

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Biak waterfront

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The new fish market

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The waterfront (again)

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View from our anchorage, a few miles away from town

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Colourful local boats

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Local boats racing past

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Kids at the fish market

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A well stocked supermarket in Biak

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It took them a while to find the key to open the booze cabinet of the supermarket

Biak, a taste of civilisation

It’s quite a shock to be back in civilisation: fun arcades, restaurants, smartphones, haircuts and eye tests; everything is available here. Biak really is just a small town but nonetheless it’s buzzing every night. And everything is very cheap, including the restaurants. You can have a slap-up meal for four for three hundred thousand rupiahs (15 pounds). Although how long we will last on chicken and noodle variations is a debatable point. We did find a fairly civilised hotel one evening and they had steak, prawns, goat, just not available on this night; would sir like chicken and noodles? They also had 7 bottles of beer on the premises, a good start that left the chillie lovers among us rather overheated, nevertheless we were saved as we had smuggled the last couple of bottles of our red wine to the table. Beer is available at 38,000 IDR a can, it’s an expensive business, let’s look again at the wine! We did find some in the supermarket, for sacramental purposes… Another good reason for the non-affiliated to stay in bed on Sunday morning. 😇

Contrary to all cruising reports Seathan has jumped in a taxi with our jerry cans and bought diesel and petrol without any issues, nobody cares and the authorities approve.

We seem to be the only white people around so every time we walk through town everyone wants to say hello and take selfies with us (and especially with the kids). Not many people speak English so we keep practicing and learning words in Indonesian.

From Biak we want to sail to Raja Ampat, an area with over 1,500 islands, famous for its sparkling clear water, diving and natural beauty. We may have to do day-sails only to get there and stop overnight as as there is not only the danger of huge logs but also unmarked floating fishing devices. Depending on how many days it takes, we may stop in Sorong on the way to Raja Ampat. We’ll see where the wind takes us… ⛵️

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the fun arcade


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the bakery


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crazy mad scientist?


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getting a haircut


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freshly cut


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at the phone shop, taking a selfie while we buy a new phone


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Dinner with our buddies from Pacha and Rampetamper in one of the hotels in town


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the only “wine” we could find in town (and yes it is undrinkable)


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ready to go sailing again


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this is where we are heading next : Raja Ampat! (photo credit: indonesiad.com)

Indonesia, all checked in!

After more than two years in the South Pacific, we arrive in South East Asia. What a culture shock: different people, smells, colours, noises, food, language… It’s buzzing and vibrant and everything becomes alive in the evening. Even the fruit and veg markets are open until ten pm. English is hardly spoken here and we are fast learning as many Indonesian words as possible. We try to get by sometimes even with Dutch or French but mostly with crazy hand gestures and our translator app.

First things first: clearing into the country. Biak is an official port of entry but is not a big town and not that many yachts come this way. We start with Immigration since they are the easiest to locate, right next to the fish market, in the centre of town. What forms do they need? They’re not too sure either, so we give them a bunch of photocopies of boat registration documents, passports, crew lists, etc. All good, passports are stamped and the officer asks if I can please bring some Belgian chocolates next time.

Then it’s off to Customs. More difficult to find and none of the locals seem to know. Eventually we find their office in one of the side streets after a twenty minute walk. Customs want to inspect the boat, so Seathan hopped on the back of the officer’s scooter and headed back to the fish market, were we left the dinghy, and then back to Rehua. The Customs officer, a young and eager guy from Jakarta, went through all the cupboards, looked under the floors, even checked the engines. Unfortunately we had a couple of bottles of wine too many and two were confiscated. Pity as we can’t buy wine anywhere here. More than an hour later, Seathan arrived back at the Customs office. We were all offered cold drinks and snacks while we waited for the final paperwork to be completed and several officers wanted to take selfies with us. Gotta love the Indonesians for their enthusiasm and big smiles.

Clearance papers in hand and all that was left to do was Quarantine. This time we took a taxi as they were on the other side of town, close to the airport. The taxi dropped us off at the wrong place (but luckily was still waiting outside) but eventually got us there. And yep, they also had to come to the boat. We were done with officialdom by this stage as we had been running around since 8am and it was now 3pm (and the kids needed lunch). Appointments were set for the next day. Biak has nowhere easy to land the dinghy, so we were limited to an early morning or late afternoon appointment as the tide has to be high otherwise the harbour is dried out. So early morning Seathan went to pick up the officials and brought them onboard. Big friendly smiles and an inspection of the galley, the heads, our stores, and especially the medical kit. They went through every packet and made a list of all our medication. All was ok, many more forms were completed with  lots of stamps and signatures and we received our health certificate. Phew. Two days to complete all the formalities is apparently a very good result.

PS Make sure to check out the kids blog to read Tyrii’s first impressions of Indonesia 🇮🇩  

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friendly locals everywhere


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heading into town for the evening


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the dinghy ‘dock” or ‘rock”, very tricky to land your dinghy and can only be done at high tide


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local markets offering delicious fresh produce


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scooters everywhere, the town is buzzing


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streetfood


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bright city lights


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plenty of entertainment for the kids


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the team from Quarantine

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Indonesians love taking selfies with us, even the officials

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formalities all done!

Gone Dutch.

Rehua:
01,18S 136,23E, anchored off Konori Island.
It feels like we were at sea for a week but in reality 5 days if we include the day stopover in Vanimo. The weather broke us on the last two days and we had to motor/sail on and off into light variable Westerlies, where they came from is anybody’s guess, theoretically the wind should be Easterly at this time of year. We lowered the hook yesterday afternoon in ten meters of pristine water and watched the lagoon come alive with double out-rigged canoes, some wielding outboards some paddles, these guys appear affluent in comparison to the poorer PNG cousins, we had ten of so off the back of the boat by sundown……our Indonesian is limited to twenty words from the back of the cruising guide, their English is non existent, so back to semaphore with the five fingered flags. We will cruise the lagoon over the weekend then head for check-in Biak style on Monday morning.
We were loosely in contact with two other boats in Vanimo, they are at the moment MIA, so guys if you are able let us know all is well we are slightly worried?
What’s to worry about in this “Equatorial Aquarium” you may ask, logs is the answer, logs and indeed whole trees at sea, sporting leaves, roots and wildlife, some up to 30 meters long and a meter in diameter, solid hardwood floating just under the surface, most have been washed down one of the many rivers on the mountainous coastline, some have been dropped by the rapacious logging companies as they load their ships for Malaysia and China after stripping this part of the world bare of its wonderful rain-forest. Don’t get me started on the fishing quotas………….!
Anyway the title “Gone Dutch”, we are officially in the “Dutch East Indies”, as they used to be called, land of spice and gold, perhaps the locals still have some Pigeon Dutch we can try tomorrow, we will give it a go, meanwhile we are all back to language classes as six months here without communicating is a no no! Selamat jalan.

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Vanimo in a day

Team Rehua was super efficient today. We arrived in Vanimo at dawn, after a two day sail from Ninigo. Before the Indonesian Consulate opened we were already waiting at the gate. Our paperwork had been submitted before we left Kavieng so the only formality left was an interview with the Consul. Once he was satisfied with our reasons for wanting to spend time in Indo, we were told we could pick up our visas at 2pm. We used the time to do a quick shop. To our surprise there was no beer for sale because the elections were on. Beer will be back for sale in four weeks time. What ??? And we would have liked to stock up because buying beer in Indo is not that easy apparently. Anyway. We went back to the boat to put our shopping away and then off to see the Port Authority. Then back to the Consulate and yay our visas were waiting. Quick dash to Customs and the official there was kind enough to also stamp our passports (in addition to handing us our clearing papers), so there was no need to see immigration. Whoop whoop, job done. Now what about that beer ? Well apparently the army could sell us some, so off to the army base and yep they didn’t mind selling us a couple of cases. Result! Finally, some ice cream for the kids, some internet time and everyone’s happy. Off to Biak, Indonesia now!🇮🇩

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