Sailing Story - Darwin to Saumlaki Rally - Apsley Straight

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    Darwin To Saumlaki Rally - 2005

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 crew.

    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 of whiskey.

    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