After sailing non-stop for eight days from Saumlaki, we anchored at Gili Bodo Island, 16 nm north of Labuan Bajo. This two-day stop was very welcome and we thoroughly enjoyed the snorkeling.
We arrived at Labuan Bajo well in time for Steve’s visit and to attend to more engine problems. We realized that the new battery that we had bought in Saumlaki had been destroyed, and we were battling to determine the cause of the problem. With the help of our former electrician, Benjamin from Fiji, who had previously re-conditioned the port starter motor and alternator, Pete determined that somehow elements of the engine electrical system had burnt out. He replaced the engine fan (fortunately we had a spare on board) which had literally melted, and bought and installed a new relay and battery.
Pete hadn’t seen his son since we left Cape Town in January 2018, so we were very excited to have Steve on board and anticipated spending most of the ten days in the Komodo National Park. This turned out to be a very worthwhile area to explore, in spite of extremely strong tidal currents of up to six knots which were definitely attention grabbing!
Komodo dragons are endemic to four islands in the Komodo National Park only. It is estimated that there are about 6 000 of these giant lizards left in the wild. We did two hikes on Komodo Island and, even though they are shy during the mating season, we were fortunate to see a few of these magnificent carnivores, which are able to consume prey as large as horses and water buffalo.
At Turtle Point off Siaba Besar Island, we enjoyed some magnificent snorkeling. Apart from spectacular coral, the number of turtles was astounding. These gentle giants seemed accustomed to people, so we could enjoy them close-up. The only other place where we had experienced this was in English Harbour on Antigua Island in the Caribbean. However, for the first time we saw them sleeping on the bottom.
In the meantime we had realized that our port engine problem was not over yet, after we lost another brand new battery! Pete and Steve spent about a day, figuring out that the cranking battery alternator had a faulty regulator which overcharged the battery and dried out the plates. Fortunately we could order a replacement alternator through a local mechanic and have it sent to Lombok.
After we dropped Steve in Labuan Bajo for his flight back home, Pete installed the new mainsail top slider, which Steve brought from South Africa.
Heading west to Lombok
From Labuan Bajo we headed west towards Lombok, stopping over at some delightful bays and visiting some interesting villages.
On Sumbawa Island we found the people of Wera village to be quite skilled. The men built huge boats right on the beach while the women wove.
From Kananga village on Sumbawa, we dinghied nearly 4km to Satonda Island. It’s an interesting volcanic island with a large lake filling the caldera. As we hiked past to the beach, we became aware of high pitched squeaking and we were surprised to see a multitude of fruit bats roosting in the trees and periodically soaring into the valley.
Once we sailed on to Lombok, we decided to do a day-trip to visit the agricultural highlands. The valley below the volcanic Mount Rinjani is extremely fertile, with many springs from the mountain providing water for the variety of vegetables, rice and peanuts grown here. We hiked 3km through some amazing rain forest to two beautiful waterfalls.
At Mataram, the capital of Lombok, we managed to buy yet another new battery and stock up for the long passage home. We were relieved that, with only eight days before our currrent visas expire, I received my visa for Australia, which meant I would also be allowed on shore at Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling.
We had in the meantime learned that Madagascar was not open to yachts, which was a huge disappointment to me as it was on my bucket list. We explored alternative options and decided to head straight past the northern tip of Madagascar to Tanzania, which apparently offers some good cruising ground.
With a few days to spare we decided to take the fast ferry over to Bali from Gili Air. We stayed in Ubud, known as Bali’s art and cultural capital, at a delightful guesthouse and rented a scooter to visit nearby attractions.
We found Bali completely different from the rest of Indonesia that we have thus far seen. The Balinese are mostly Hindu, gentle friendly folk, and they have a distinctive architecture and great food.
Crossing the Indian Ocean
The new alternator finally arrived, with just days to go and Pete managed to install it along with the new battery, to enable us to depart Indonesia by our visa deadline, 11th August. Then we start the long passage (7500km) across the Indian Ocean to Africa, via Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling, where we plan to arrive in the cruising grounds of Tanzania by end September.
Indonesia has more than 18 000 islands and with only 60 days available, we have actually seen a very small part of it. We found Indonesia interesting and we really enjoyed the sea life, tasty food and friendly Indonesians, but for Pete the language difficulties (for technical issues), the lack of wind and very deep anchorages were a downside of sailing in this amazing country.