Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ashmore Reef to Bali

We slipped the mooring line and back-tracked out of Ashmore Reef between 0630 and 0700 on Wednesday, 23 September 2009. As has been true since leaving Darwin, the GRIB files were wrong on the weather forecast. Winds were supposed to be 5 knots from the north. Instead we were getting 15 knots from the WSW, which put us sailing close-hauled hard on the wind as our initial course was 276 degrees. That was too tight to sail; and since we had already motored so much between Darwin and Ashmore Reef, we opted to modify course to the sailing point and headed off to 315 degrees. This was still tightly close-hauled and it was a rollicking ride for 2 days as the winds very slowly backed southerly. The first 24-hours we sailed 145.2 miles and made 149 miles on the second day. Then the wind backed farther SW and we were able to point more directly toward Bali; third day we sailed 155.9 miles and the final partial day was 58.8 miles. So, total trip from Ashmore Reef to the mooring field in Bali was 508.9 NM. We arrived at 1600 on Saturday, 26 September, and are now on a mooring at latitude 08.42.123S longitude 115.14.64E

The stretch of water between the islands of Bali and Lombok is called the Lombok Strait. Like many of the straits and passes in Indonesia, the currents there are notorious. Currents run 1 knot to 7 knots year-round -- south-setting during the SE monsoon and north-setting during the NW monsoon. This strikes me as very strange as the current runs opposite the winds during both monsoon seasons. But that is the way it works. The currents do not switch direction with the tides as happens in many of the other Indonesian straits and passes; the current directions in Lombok Strait are determined strictly by the monsoon season. The strength of the currents is determined by the tides and the transit of the moon. The sailing guides get into details of upper-transit of the moon and lower-transit of the moon in combination with the tidal times and it goes way over my head. In order to predict anything about the strength of the currents in Lombok Strait requires a Nautical Almanac, which we do not carry aboard S/V BeBe because we don't use sextants like ancient mariners.

With all that explanation, suffice it to say that we had a heck of a time getting up and across Lombok Strait to arrive at Bali. Our course was diagonally from SE to NW across Lombok Strait. No way we could do it! We have a 100-hp engine and at highest sensible rpms and full sails under almost 15 knot winds we could only make 2.25 knots SOG against the current. The boat speed through the water was over 9 knots, but our speed-over-ground was only 2.25 knots. The speedometer looked like we were going fast but we weren't making any headway toward our destination. This was on a descending tide. We decided to turn more westerly and raised the SOG to 5.5 knots.

As the tide fell, the currents changed ever so slightly and we pointed northward 5 degrees at a time. Eventually we made it under the lee of little Nusapenida island and were able to point more toward our destination. As the tide reach slack stage we headed directly on our desired course. By the time we reached the initial waypoint for entering the anchorage area, the tide was on the flood and the current started back up quickly. Current was again up to 3 knots against us by the time we reached the waypoint to turn towards the anchorage. It was tricky and discouraging and took a lot longer than anticipated, but we made it! If we had it to do over again, we would point up much earlier in the trip and get close beneath Lombok island. Then head almost straight west across Lombok Strait rather than trying to go diagonally across. Crossing the current must be easier than going head-into it.

BTW, we burned a whopping total of 400 liters of diesel getting from Darwin to Bali. For you landlubbers, that is about 9 1/2 miles to the gallon. Absolutely ridiculous for a sailboat. But better to waste diesel than to sit out there and drift around when there is no wind, as during the first 4 days out of Darwin.

Between Ashmore Reef and Bali we experienced the strangest thing. For almost 2 whole days and nights our AIS was picking up ships at exceptional distances. The AIS works on a VHF frequency, so the normal range is about 30 miles because VHF does not normally bounce off of the ionosphere. However, we were picking up dozens of ships about 500 miles away!! They mostly were around Port Hedland on the northwestern tip of Australia. The charts indicate that there is a magnetic anomaly throughout that part of Australia and the Indian Ocean, but we don't see how that could amplify the VHF signals to such distances. The farthest ship we saw was 768 miles away from us in the Indian Ocean. And we could read all the mobile properties (details) of that ship. It was amazing. And occasionally we even heard snippets of VHF conversations between the various ships and the port control at Port Hedland. This was 500 to 600 miles south of us and they sounded like they were right next door. Amazing. And it kept us on our toes because every time an AIS target would appear we would have to check to make sure it was one of those far away and not one nearby. Interesting couple of night watches.

As we approached the waypoint to turn towards the anchorage I saw some kind of weird thing in the water ahead of us. There was a large swell (after all we were in the Indian Ocean) and this thing would get lost in the swells. But I could see it when it happened to top a swell ahead of us and it was getting closer. At first I thought it might be a large root system from a tree. Certainly would not want to run into something like that! But as it got closer it began to look for all the world like a huge alien water spider. It looked like large legs curving up and then down around a body -- just like a spider. As it crossed in front of us and then came past on our starboard side it became clearly visible. It was one of the odd boats that are used around Bali. The "spider legs" were painted bright pink and blue. We saw several of these as we made our way into the anchorage. Will try to get photos at some point.

Rather than go into the commercial Benoa Harbor to the decrepit and filthy Bali Marina, we are in an anchorage about 2 kilometers north of Benoa Harbor. Our C-map charts show us to have sailed through solid reefs and that we are well up on land. But obviously that is not correct. Never saw less than 7.8 meters of depth as we entered this mooring field. The owner of the moorings sent a guy out to the channel markers to guide us in and to our mooring. We had been in contact with TC Marine by email prior to our arrival and they were expecting us. Supposedly we can clear into Indonesia while moored out here and will not be required to go to the docks at Bali Marina to clear in. The official offices are closed for the weekend so we will do the paperwork dance on Monday morning.

Sunday morning a man named Monday came by and offered the services of his work crew. On Tuesday he will send out a work crew to wash and wax our boat, including waxing the masts. The paint on the masts is getting chalky and need to be waxed. Bill could do this, but why should he when laborers costs only about $15 per day per man. Hire the locals and give them a job. The work crew will even bring their own fresh water to clean our boat. So we don't waste our water. Couldn't ask for a better deal. Monday also will deliver 400 liters of diesel to us on Tuesday -- for only 70 cents per liter. Someone else we know bought diesel from Monday a few weeks ago and said it was clean fuel. That is about $2.70 USD per gallon for clean diesel delivered to our boat. Can't ask for a better deal than that!!!

Ya think we might be in Asia?!? Take a look at these typical large Indonesian panesi ships. These are built in Kalimantan (formerly known as Borneo) and the hull is sailed down to Bali for fitting out. They are working on several of these here in Serangan harbor right now.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be posted after we confirm that you are not a cyber stalker.