Arafura Sea Passage 2015, Darwin to Kupang, Timor, Indonesia
The rally fleet took off in very light wind of 5 – 10 knots from the west and south east and this continued under the whole passage which made it slow and gave much motoring. The total distance to Kupang of 473 Nm was made in 3½ days with 42 hours motoring.
We made landfall in Kupang on Timor where all the paperwork with the Indonesian authorities was swiftly done. It is interesting that Captain Blaigh with crew landed here in the longboat after the mutiny on Bounty which took place off the island of Tofua in Tonga. This difficult journey in an open and overcrowded boat without much food, sextant, and charts amounted to approx. 3000 Nm. He managed it very well and saved most of his crew.
2015 was an El Nino year, which for Indonesia in general means that warm water flows east. The effect is that the rain fall caused normally by the colder water current coming from the east was much less than normal. The resulting dry landscape made the burning of forests much worse and the haze from the fires in the whole region was denser than in previous decades. It often gave problems also for the navigation with a visibility of down to 1 – 2 Nm. For longer periods we could not see the sun through the haze. The wind speeds were generally low to moderate with a great local influence from the islands in-between which strong tidal currents occurred. Sailing was easy and motoring was mostly necessary. The whole journey through the islands which we visited between Kupang and Senibong Marina, Malaysia amounts to 1949 Nm with 116 hours of motoring.
Indonesia is a remarkable country with many contrasts. In the eastern region and on the small islands it is common to see dough out canoes. Some are propelled with paddles, others with simple lawn cutter type engines and long tail shafts. The simple and efficient engineering is impressive. The further west we came and the more dens the population became the larger and more sophisticated the fishing vessels became. On the small remote islands in the east people lived a very simple life using natural resources as fishermen and farmers.
Many fishermen used small canoes with outriggers and nets or stationary fish traps; however many also used high powered lamps during the night and though less common even fishing with dynamite was observed. It seems that the area is overfished, because typically the catch consists mostly of small to very small fish.
We only met very friendly and helpful people. The food is good and well spiced. An interesting thing was that almost all over the islands you could have internet access through the mobile cell phone system. There is much better coverage here than e.g. in northern Australia; however with a population of approx. 250 mill spread over the islands, the many antennas make a lot of sense.
The islands visited were: Timor, Alor, Kawula, Adunara, Flores, Rindja, Nusa Kode, Gili Banta, Sumbawa, Lombok, Bali, Java, Madura, Pulau Bawean, Karimunjawa, Pulau Belitung, Kentar, Palau Bintan, and Palau Batam.
In the large National Park area including the Islands of Rindja, and the sister Island of Komodo Island, we saw quite many of the wild Komodo Dragons as well as their wild pray of buffaloes, monkeys, and dear. We also spotted the dragons on a couple of other islands on beaches where we had been walking the days before, and felt lucky that nothing had happened?
The small island of Bali was one of the highlights of the trip. It is a beautiful island with the many rice fields and coffee plantations. People here are colorful and mostly Hindus who decorates houses and shops and give daily gifts to the gods. We also visited their many well-kept temples and other attractions. It is interesting to see how well people of different religions lives together in peace, when thinking about the fighting over slight differences in religious belief e.g. seen in the Arabic part of the world.
One of the additional benefits of participating in the Sail Indonesia rally was that we got many sailor friends whom we also met in the Sail Malaysia rally, and many of whom we hope to meet again next season.