Leg 16 - Ambon - Bali, Indonesia

November 17, 2018

Sorry for the long delay in posting from Elcie! We've been on the move - including a big trip home for the Annapolis  Boat Shows last month.


We have been keeping up our student website at www.sailtosee.org however. Please keep passing it along to teachers and students who may enjoy it.


Here is our route of Leg 16:


We spent several days getting ready for our Leg 16 Crew to join. It’s great having the Adelman family on board again. This is the third time they have joined us on Elcie so they know the boat and routines pretty well. It is the first time they have been on offshore with us. We had a relatively short passage to get to Flores Island where we would start exploring some exciting parts of Indonesis. The first part was quite rough and there was some mal de mer on board.


Our second day of the passage was a beautiful sailing day and by then everyone was feeling better. We passed close by a towering volcano rising from the ocean. This would be the first of many volcano sightings in Indonesia. We fished every day but did not catch anything. The autopilot continued to work well which was a relief to all the crew. A sliver of moon started to show on the early night watches. As everyone started feeling better, the ukeleles came out and showers were had on the aft steps.


On the third night of the passage, I stood my 1-4 watch then stayed up an extra hour and a half hour to let Richard get caught up on some sleep. I went to bed at 5:30 looking forward to a few hours of sleep before arrival. Instead, approaching Flores, the winds increased sharply. Where one would expect a wind shadow and the need to motor, instead we were down to two small sails, working hard to get up to the anchorage. We came off every wave with a hard smack that shook the boat and made sleep impossible.


Finally, we sailed into some calm conditions close to shore off of Sea World Resort, a place that is much more low key than the name sounds. We had anchored here 20 years ago on our last boat. Soon after the anchor was down all were in the water. Fisherman in small outrigger fishing canoes came by to say hello. One man had pointed to shore and told us the snorkeling was very good so we swam up to the reef. We were eager to get in the water after Ambon where it was not very clean for swimming. Brilliant blue and green corals and anemone fish and other bright fish occupied the reef. We swam until we were all rather pruny and cold. Laying on the aluminum decks of Elcie is a good way to warm up!


Ashore, the resort was pleasant and very welcoming to cruising boats. The reception desk helped us arrange a van for the following morning for an inland trip to Kelimutu National Park, known for its three different color lakes. In the afternoon, Leslie and I made a trip into Maumere, the second largest town in Flores, about 30 minutes away. We took a ride from a “taxi” that stopped along the road and picked us up.


Most taxis are opportunistic drivers who will always accept some money to take you where you want. Along the way, we pulled across the oncoming traffic to buy a couple of fish from a roadside seller. Then, we turned into a waterfront restaurant and dropped off the fish. I guess when you are merely a paying passenger in someone’s car, you get to run their errands with them! We paid 30,000 IDR for our ride or about $2 USD.



We had dinner ashore that night beneath twinkling lights strung in trees overhead. The resort was small but had quite a few guests. Many were Australians there as part of a Dive Club trip. We ate from the buffet so were able to taste many Indonesian dishes. Fried vegetable cakes were delicious. Prawn curry and local green vegetables were also tasty. The Sambal sauce for the grilled Yellowfin tuna was fiery hot. Food is a bargain once the conversion is made as the buffet was only about $5 USD each. Having been up since 1 AM the night before, my head hit the pillow hard after dinner.


Our trip to Kelimutu National Park required a very early start the following morning! We planned to meet the van at 5AM for the 3 hour drive to the park. This meant getting up at 4:15 AM to eat breakfast and to get everybody ashore with what they needed for the day. The van was hysterical – pimped out in many decals and blue racing stripes and lots of chrome. Richard sat in the front seat but maybe regretted it as it was not very relaxing swerving around motorbikes, trucks loaded with bananas, pedi-cabs and pedestrians. The roads were at times precipitous but the views were stunning. We passed through many small villages clinging to the sides of steep hills. It was cool and misty and green and many people on the roadsides were wrapped in large pieces of traditional, woven Ikat cloth.


The last few miles to Kelimutu were nerve wracking, skidding along and climbing muddy tracks where the roads leading into the park were being widened. We stopped at the ticket gate and used the restrooms. This was the girls’ introduction to squat toilets – a porcelain fixture with rippled foot placements on either side of a hole and a bucket of water with a dipper to “flush”.


Also at the ticket gate was the Australian family from the other boat anchored off of Sea World-Rob, Catherine and Erica who is 17! This is the first teenager we have seen on a boat since Panama.


The hike up to the three-color lakes in Kelimutu was only a couple of kilometers on mostly paved track and steps. A band of Macaque Monkeys hangs out in the trees above and the brush along the track. The lakes are deep down inside three craters atop a volcanic mountain. One lake was a brilliant aquamarine, the second was light green and the third was dark green – almost black. When we went to the park in 1999, one of the lakes was a rich, red color. The lake colors change with the mineral contents present in the water. There were many visitors to the park including a group of high schoolers from the USA on a summer learning experience trip.




The ride back down the mountain was also exciting and terrifying at times. Jeff traded with Richard for the front seat. I believe our driver was doing his best but we were just not accustomed to all the horn blowing and high speed passing on curves. At one point, a truck tried to pass us and there was a loud noise. It felt like we hit but we could never see a mark. Regardless, the passing truck stopped directly in front of us – on a curve – and the driver got out to have words with our driver. His passenger also got out to join in the altercation. There was much animated yelling and gesturing and we couldn’t understand anything but we knew road rage when we saw it. After a few minutes, they settled down and we got underway again. The truck that passed us zoomed around another truck ahead and thankfully disappeared out of sight.


Our driver stopped at a beachside “restaurant” so we could get some lunch. It was a very informal place that actually looked to be still under construction. We were able to pull together a couple of tables and 10 chairs in the sand outside the back door that looked across the Indian Ocean. The menu was very traditional, prices were great and the food was good. I was amazed when I saw the “kitchen”, a shed with a couple of giant wok pans over gas burners – basic to say the least.


We got back to the boat around 5:00 PM in time for a swim before the sun set. Another boat had come in and anchored during the day. It was an older steel boat with a Danish flag and a large crew including several kids. We swam on the reef in the morning before heading west to the Komodo National Park. Again, we passed close by a large volcano en route. Motoring in light conditions, we saw a large pod of Pilot whales, smallish black fins lazily breaking the surface. Among them were a few large dolphins who came over to say hello and swim in our bow wake.


I’ve started calling this “Windonesia” because it seems we either have too much wind or not enough. In any case, the varying wind strengths create a lot of extra work for the crew - reefing and un-reefing and trading jibs frequently. Engines on and off. Night watches are particularly busy as there is much traffic to deal with as well. The larger ships should show up on the AIS though sometimes they don’t. Smaller fishing boats are sometimes only apparent once we hear the loud PUTT-PUTT-PUTT of motors close by, have a spotlight shown at us or smell cigarette smoke. It is not relaxing.


By morning, we were rounding the northwest corner of Flores and approaching the islands of Komodo National Park. We opted to put the anchor down in a protected bay just before the park to have a swim before carrying on. It was a good choice as the reef was again healthy and beautiful and we could swim right off of the boat. Everyone felt refreshed and awake and we continued on to Rinca Island (pronounced Rinjja) where we would anchor near one of the ranger stations to arrange a guide for “dragon hunting” the next morning. This area was not suited to swimming - there were Crocodile warnings so we were glad that we’d had a swim in the morning. Tour boats anchored in the bay when we arrived starting departing before sunset. We thought we might have the bay to ourselves for the night. However, a whole new set of boats came in to replace them and by morning it was full with boats. Not bothered by them, I was thankful for a quiet night of sleep as I was starting to have the tell-tale signs of an oncoming cold. Ugh. 


We planned to be ashore at 7 AM to meet a guide. It was only a 5-minute dinghy ride. Somehow, we didn’t make it to the ranger station until 7:20. There was still a guide, carrying a large forked stick, available to walk us through the park. We opted for the long hike, about 90 minutes, that provided some great views of Elcie in the narrow bay and also the surrounding hills. Along the way we saw water buffalo and monkeys and deer. Our guide pointed out a Komodo dragon nesting site, a large dirt mound with an indent in the center. However, it wasn’t until we were ALL the way back at the ranger’s station village, just 50 feet from where we started, that we saw the Komodo Dragons themselves. The largest was a male about 7 feet long from nose to tail. There was a pregnant female that was almost as big. Some were much smaller. It was mating season and the dragons are more difficult to find so they apparently do not discourage the ones that choose to hang out near the buildings. Our guide happened to mention that they also enjoy the chicken bones thrown out to them after meals. 

 Back at Elcie, we got underway to motor around to Padar, a smaller island in the park. After departing, a small boat with two young men that had approached us the previous night just after sunset, reappeared to show us carved dragons, bowls and pearls that they had to sell. We drifted along while purchasing some of the bowls. There was some trading as well.


A ferocious current, running at up to 5 knots slowed us down to a crawl in the narrowest part of the pass between the islands. In the bay at Padar, a large yellow mooring can was available so we fished up the pennant and tied onto it. Ashore, a stairway led up and away to a mountainous peak above the bay. The climbing party headed ashore and summited this peak. The views were amazing and Elcie looked tiny in the bay below. Richard flew the drone above us standing on a knife edge ridge. Back in the bay, tour boats starting filling in all the empty spaces. At low tide, with an 8 foot drop, the bay closed in on us, feeling much smaller. A large, local charter boat came astern and asked to tie onto Elcie. We let them but I’m glad it was only for a couple of hours and not for the night. It was a bit disconcerting to see them so close out our back door.

 In the morning, it was Jeff’s birthday so we started with his breakfast request of ham, eggs and homemade biscuits. Afterward, we motored around to the famous Pink Beach of Komodo Island. We picked up another mooring and were “welcomed” by five or six boats hawking their wares –more bowls, more pearls, more carved wooden dragons. Soon, we had handicraft sellers perched on the end of each hull. Somehow, we managed to buy or trade something with each of them until they moved on. The birthday lunch was hot dogs, baked beans, pickles and chips.


I was feeling a bit achy and stuffy by this point so volunteered to stay aboard while the others went snorkeling off the beach. Molly also stayed behind to do school work. The snorkeling sounded fantastic and I fortunately got to see the GoPro footage of anemone fish and more healthy coral. On the way to the north end of Komodo, we passed by Manta Alley, an area that is known to attract large manta rays. It was near slack tide so conditions were good to jump in and look for them. Several other boats were in the area. I stayed aboard Elcie and drifted while the rest jumped in the dinghy with snorkel gear.


 I could tell even from afar that they had found one, paddling excitedly to keep up with it. I motored Elcie up closer as they were starting to get rather far away. All of the other boats left. Richard told me there were two huge Mantas and that I really shouldn’t miss them. I grabbed my gear and we traded places. Soon, five giant Manta Rays, each about 10-12 feet wide were circling a coral bommie about 25 feet below us. They floated gracefully, pirouetting around the dwarfed coral head. The current had started to run so it was hard to stay in one place. We stayed another 15 minutes then climbed in the dinghy and went back to Elcie. This was a great birthday present for Jeff!


We anchored around the north end of Komodo Island in a deep bay. It was deep in two ways – a large indent in the coast but we also dropped the anchor in 100 feet of water. For dinner, we had Italian night and some nice red wine followed by Trivia and a Birthday Cobbler. Molly, Kate and Luke had also written an article about Jeff’s life and made it into a Mad Lib. It ended up being very funny.


The morning found us hiking up yet another tall hill and this time we carried our breakfast to the top. Several groups of hikers looked at our breakfast of granola, yogurt, juice and coffee with envy.  Kristen, Jeff’s sister, who is very athletic, covered way more ground then the rest of us, backtracking several times across the hills and skipping the mountaintop breakfast. Again, the views were breathtaking in every direction!

 Back at Elcie, we spent some more time in the water and then carried on to the east. Our original plan was to go all the way to Lombok, the island just before Bali. Instead, we stopped off at an island called Banta where there was a good anchorage we had read about. We were able to anchor in 25 feet over sand and snorkel on the reef near the entrance. It was by far some of the best soft and hard corals and fish we have seen anywhere - amazing colors and variety.


Off we headed in the morning with one more volcano called Sangeang to pass close by. The ash fields were obvious spilling out of the cone at the top. A few houses dotted the hillsides beneath it. This always amazes me. We had a lovely sail through the whole day with steady winds and flat seas. I had a nice nap while Leslie put together a delicious dinner of enchiladas. I was starting to feel better.


At night, we were inflicted with erratic winds once again and the traffic appeared out of nowhere – passenger ships, tankers, tugs, fishing boats. This is a busy area with vessels of all kinds. By the following afternoon, we were approaching Medana Bay and a small marina resort that made moorings available to yachts. On the beaches, we could see hundreds of fishing boats that looked just like big water striders when afloat. Glittery onion-shaped domes and the minarets of mosques dotted the sky above the tree line. We picked up a mooring and a reconnaissance team went ashore to check in. The Norwegian boat was alongside a floating dock with parts spread out and the smell of fresh paint.


Just before sunset, the Muslim call to prayers flowed out of the many mosques and across the bay at high volume. It seemed to go on for a very long time. A small restaurant that was part of the marina, called Sailfish, looked very inviting and I was glad for another night out of the galley. We had a really nice dinner of traditional Indonesia food. Claire, who is nine, discovered several restaurants ago that Spaghetti Bolognese is also an Indonesian specialty!

At 4:30 AM I was awakened from a peaceful and much needed sleep by the wail of the muezzin once again, sounding louder at this time of day. I actually think we were hearing the call to prayers from several mosques at once. Again, it seemed endless but finally I thought to turn on the fan and shut my porthole to muffle the sound. I fell back asleep… but not for long as we had a plan for an early morning trip to the traditional market in the nearby town.


Richard took Leslie and me, Emma and Luke ashore to find a taxi that would take us to the market. It was a 10-minute ride and at 7:00 in the morning, the streets were already full of cars, motorbikes and people. In front of the market were at least 200 motorbikes, some already loaded with purchases and others looking like mobile mini-markets (photo below).


The market was chaotic, meandering down narrow passageways and spilling over into the aisles - fruit, veggies, fish, eggs, live chickens – everything was available. It was not a plastic-free market like the one back in the Solomon Islands but everyone obliged when I asked them not to put my food in a plastic bag. We came away with what we needed for the next two days and especially the eggs and ripe bananas that were required for the Sunday morning crepes on the Adelman’s last morning aboard Elcie. I was especially happy to find fresh made tempeh wrapped in banana leaves and fastened with small bamboo skewers - all natural wrapping.

Back from the market, all had a swim and we got underway for Bali. There were about 55 miles to be sailed across the Lombok Strait. We passed between the Gili Islands, a destination for vacationing backpackers and headed southwest. Twenty years ago, we anchored off of Gili Aer and there was only one tiny resort. Now there must be 15 or 20. We had a good sail for much of the way across to Bali. Huge tankers and cargo ships were going north and south in the strait. Part way across I was looking up at the 9,000 foot peak of Mt. Agung, yet one more active volcano, and saw a growing cloud of ash that had belched forth from the crater! This was impressive. A few weeks earlier, the ash from Agung had temporarily closed the airport on Bali.


On a mooring in Serangan Harbor in Bali, we spent our last evening with the whole Leg 16 crew, talking about all the things we did and adventures we had along the way. It was a really fun couple of weeks and now we are glad to be in Bali where we will stay put for much of the next 4 weeks to do boat show art and boat projects. We also hope to get many good nights of sleep before we head across the Indian Ocean.


The Leg 16 Crew at Kelimutu Park:



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