Are we there yet?
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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We passed out of the Australian fishing zone on about 10am on Monday, after two solid days and about 240 miles (380km) of travelling. No real wind has eventuated so we've motored all the way so far, and I pity the poor bastards behind us that don't have enough diesel to cover the entire trip - they might be waiting a long time for a sailing breeze to pick up!
It's been very hot so a general lethargy has descended on the boats in the slowly undulating, glassy smooth seas. The swell out here has reached about 2 metres, quite widely separated and hitting the boat at about 4-5 o'clock, ensuring we bob around quite a bit. It's not really sickening but certainly disorienting, so I'm generally sore in the head and listless which makes writing anything a bit of a chore. Still, there are highlights in any day so always look on the bright side eh?
Yesterday's highlights were our cruising within a few miles of the massive structures of the Timor sea gas wells. Yes, they are one and the same as those that Australia is bullying East Timor for more of a cut in, to the detriment of the fledgling nation we so nobly assisted a few years back to gain independence. Not sure how that has panned out but they're still piping it up and exporting it to China. A little later we had more dolphins (or pilot whales, don't know which) off the bow for a while which was great to see. They turned around to follow us for a while but again, the 5 knot speed we were doing wasn't enough to keep them occupied so they turned tail again.
A couple of hours after that some rain squalls appeared on the horizon and caused a little consternation, but as there was no wind the large ones we were watching combined then raged about 5 miles away before eventually petering out after I went below decks at the end of my watch. A smaller squall caught us from behind however, so I headed up for a 'cruising shower' in the deliciously cool but disappointingly short rain storm. So refreshing and cleansing after days of 33 degree heat.
Then around 5pm we had a tug on the fishing line, which we easily reeled in to catch a large (40cm) blue fin tuna. After giving it a shot of rum (which kills it - and with a bang I expect!) Joe and I struggled to clean it on the back of the boat whilst on the move. Then I remembered the camera - oops. Michele finished turning it into tuna fillets and apparently that will be on the BBQ menu once we reach anchorage. I'll take a photo then - it should taste pretty good.
Today's big event was the wind turning up around 10am and being able to turn the motor off and actually sail. Yay! It's amazing the difference not having to run the engine makes to quality of life on board. Blissfully quiet, dramatically reduced below deck temperatures and no diesel fumes circulating through the cabins (fortunately only when the front tank is being used). Everyone's spirits have risen dramatically. Apparently this is by far the longest this boat has had to motor anywhere in it's global voyages so although it's not all that steady we're very relieved to see it.
And just as I'm typing now (around 5pm), it looks as though we can see land on the horizon! Hurrah! That means that at about 1am we will enter the Kupang Strait and run the gauntlet of other rally boats, unlit fishing boats, nets and lobster pots to make anchorage. We'll be tired and it will be tight but it will be great to finally arrive.
I must say at this point that this sea travel is by far the hardest I've ever done and it must take a special breed of person to enjoy it. The unforgiving expansiveness of the ocean around you; the interminable timeframes it takes to do relatively short distances (this passage was approximately 600km at 8km/hour); the constant motion, disorientation and tiredness; the small room (and large price) paid for error; and the cramped environs all combine to make it a truly harrowing endeavour. I'm glad I did it, and on this last day (actually sailing) I really saw the attraction, but the train travel I was marveling at only a couple of weeks ago is a piece of cake compared. Amazing.
Finally, you can't understand the immensity of the oceans on this planet until you have done a journey like this. And this particular crossing was only a small sea (the Timor) on the edge of a small ocean (the Indian). Imagine crossing the Pacific! It helps me gain some perspective for the rest of my overland adventures. Australia's landscape is small and hugely diverse in comparison, but seas like this are the lifeblood of the planet and deserve our respect in many ways.
Anyway, enough philosophising. Now the hard part of this leg is done and with a handful of overnight passages between the islands of Nusa Tenggara I'll be able to show you some amazing parts of Indonesia right on Australia's doorstep, but rarely visited by your typical westerner. I hope you can join me.
Addendum - here's some pictures coming into Kupang at sun up. Pretty tired but very happy by then!
Next entry -> Around and about West Timor