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Darwin To Saumlaki Rally
Heading off to Indonesia
As this was our first visit to Asia we decided to join
the Darwin to Saumlaki Rally which eased the process of
entering Indonesia via the Southeast Moluccas.
We had Mike’s daughter and her friend onboard as
Indonesia requires all vessels to have both a cruising
permit as well as the necessary visas and myriads of photocopies!
As a warning to others, name every possible island you may
chance to visit on your original documentation so as to
avoid sometimes traumatic encounters such as we had. That
is in another Sailing Story!
The Darwin-Saumlaki Rally is an ongoing event held in July
or thereabouts every year. Most boats return to Darwin but
in our year, four of us continued on. As the departure day
arrived so did the weather warnings.
SV RikiTiki and Whimoway chose to avoid Cape Don and proceed
through Apsley Straight, a channel between Bathurst and
Melville Islands north of Darwin. We had wanted to see
this place and hoped it would be an easier journey.
Had a great sail and arrived at our anchorage just in
the mouth of the channel at Nguiu. We were awoken first
light by the sound of rattling chain as the currents here
power at 5-6 knots and had turned earlier than we planned,
so it was a mad rush to up anchor and be on our way.
We were given 60 waypoints to navigate through this area
and for those of us who have to physically punch them
into the gps! That is a lot of waypoints. A spectacular
morning with mist and sunrise, tide with us and no wind.
Exiting the straight was when the fun began. The next
48hrs brought us rough, sloppy seas, making some of the
crew inevitably seasick, and to top it off, our new-secondhand
self steering broke! So we were exhausted and the interior
of Whimoway was a mess!
During Mikes turn on the helm, the crew alerted him to
the sounder showing 3ft! Impossible according to the charts
but we were in foreign waters and sounders don’t
lie. Panic stations, all crew on hand for rechecking charts
then we realized that our sounder will only read to 1500ft,
hence it was confused!
Saumlaki is on the southern tip of Yamdena Island, Indonesia.
The rally is very welcomed here as these people have limited
to no incomes and little contact with foreigners.
First visitors of course were Immigrasi!, 10 of them in
pressed pants with polished shoes, some in plastic helmets
and only one of them spoke English. It all seemed official
until they spotted our duty free and then they were off
with Mike following behind and Whimoway down one bottle
Our days were quickly filled up with ceremonies, dance
displays, school visits, more ceremonies, abundant food,
speeches and lots of beautiful scarves, hand woven of
course, as gifts.
Bintang beer is good and diesel was 33cents Aus a litre.
We visited a school to deliver a little parcel from some
people we met in Gove and as they knew we were coming
they cooked up a feast and treated us like royalty. The
school is run by the church and is mainly for the very
poor kids with 130 girls and 2 boys! The headmaster and
teachers were delightful.
Mike danced with the kids in their break, which created
a storm of squealing and laughter. We purchased a book
from the school titled “Forgotten Islands of Indonesia”
which describes in detail the art and culture of this
region. The boat symbolism there is fascinating; all village
life was governed by it.
Here we experienced road rules Indonesian style and it
was terrifying! Big is best and everyone else gets out
of the way. There is a lot to see and do there apart from
the many organized functions. The locals are friendly,
generous and helpful and we recommend this rally and hope
more yachts come each year as is the wish of these islanders.
SV Riki Tiki, SV Galaad and Whimoway continued on west
and are part of the next Sailing Story.
Map Of Saumlaki and Yamdena Island - Indonesia