Words from Tulu

Words from Tulu

Words from Tulu

These are the words and musings of Chris and Sara as they pursue their dream of sailing away on their catamaran called TULU

Komodo - Dragon land

SailingPosted by Chris Thu, October 08, 2015 03:34:43

The area of Komodo National Park was a very pleasant surprise for us. Although we were excited to be seeing the famous Komodo dragon we were unaware of the quality of the diving and snorkelling in the area.


Our first stop was in Waecicu Bay from where we were able to go (by boat taxi) in to Labuan Bajo for provisions. Luckily we didn’t need more than fruit and veg as the town itself was filthy, smelly and dusty - its only saving grace was a superb italian restaurant (Made in Italy) where we had dinner with Champagne Charlie and Anthem - our first truly western meal out since leaving Australia - great pizza and a decent wine list - so grown up!


We did not want to linger in Labuan Bajo so the next morning we headed out early to visit the island of Rinca to see the fearsome Komodo Dragons. We anchored in the bay near the rangers station, tied the dingy to the jetty and walked the few hundred meters along a path to the rangers station to pay our dues. Before we had gone very far we heard rustling in the undergrowth, looked up the slope beside us to see a dragon coming down to cross the path. Chris ran (very quickly) on whilst Sara tried to get a picture, but we had been warned not to get in their way as their bite is toxic enough to be fatal. They are the biggest of the world lizards, incredibly gnarly and though prefer to eat carrion, will eat anything including their young and each other. As we neared the rangers station we saw many more, but non so active. They can move very fast on land as well as being good swimmers. Most were basking in the sun or slumped in the shade. As you can see from the photos they really are the most prehistoric looking creatures - and quite a size. We went for a guided walk seeing more dragons and monkeys by which time it was getting really hot, so back to the boat to head off to find a nice peaceful anchorage for some swimming and snorkelling.


We spent five days in the Komodo area, each day anchored off a different island paddling, swimming and doing lots of snorkelling including a couple of superb drift snorkels being sluiced along the edge of the channel between the islands by the current - great fun, but you have to hold on tight to the dingy. The water clarity and condition of the coral was much better than anywhere we have seen in Indonesia so far and friends that went diving said it was the best yet - manta rays, sharks, turtles and the first big fish we’ve seen (they are protected in the national park and not fished to oblivion like elsewhere). The currents between the islands are fierce - as much as 6 knots making moving around quite a challenge but great if you get it right.


We were sad to move on from Komodo, but there are still many places to visit - next stops Lombok and Bali. As we left Gili Banta, our last anchorage, we went past Mount Sangeang, an active volcano which pushed out a puff of smoke as we sailed away.

Flores..and a visit home for Sara

SailingPosted by Chris Thu, October 08, 2015 03:33:43

Then on to Flores from where Sara flew home for brief visit to see the family and attend Tom (nephew) and Rosie’s wedding. There was no where suitable to leave Tulu unattended so Chris stayed behind at anchor off the Sea World Resort, Maumere on the north coast of Flores.


We were towards the front of the fleet as we approached Maumere to give us time to settle into the anchorage, get Chris known in the resort so that he would be well fed in Sara’s absence and it gave us both a chance to take a day trip to see the coloured volcanic lakes of Kelimutu. The drive across the island in itself was very interesting, through villages and paddy fields, but the lakes were spectacular - three lakes of different colours, each in separate craters. The colour of each lake at any given time depends upon the volcanic activity at the time - an ever changing kaleidoscope.


Sara flew to Bali on 28th August, had a night there, and then on to London via Doha. Straight to Stamford for the bank holiday with Jonno and Bex including shopping for a wedding outfit, then back to London to apply for a new Indonesian visa (single entry only) on the Tuesday morning and then a train to Somerset after a quick coffee with New Zealand friends, David and Brenda who happen to be in town. Phew! It was lovely to see Granny and to stay at the farm. Communications from Indonesia have not been easy so I have not spoken to her as much as I would have liked, so it was particularly good to see her. The next day I drove to Penarth to see Molly (Chris’ mother) and then back via Ashcott to catch up with the Haynes and Griffs. A couple of days helping with wedding flowers and then Tom and Rosies beautiful and very emotional wedding on the Saturday followed the next day by a superb lunch party thrown by Rog (Sara’s brother) and Lou. This gave her a chance to see so many more friends than would have otherwise been possible, but best of all it was wonderful to have Jonno and Bex and Will and Charlotte all together. After the lunch party it was farewell to Mum again and back to London with Will and Charlotte, stay in their new house, seen for the first time, and then fly back to Indonesia, again to Bali and on to Flores the next day. A truly flying visit with only a week in the UK but definitely worth the hassle.


As for Chris, we thought he would be a bit lonely with Sara away, but not a bit of it. As Maumere was the stop for visa renewals he had plenty of company, particularly as in true Indonesian style this process was a bureaucratic nightmare with some people being delayed for almost a week. Chris led the charge trying to smooth the way and persuade the local authorities that this process could be a smooth one - not quite sure whether that was achieved exactly, but the rest of the fleet were grateful for his help. As a result he was bought countless happy hour beers and only ate one meal from the freezer.


As we again headed west along Flores towards Riung we made a number of night stops. You could tell we were heading into an area of Indonesia where the locals are far more used to seeing foreign boats than in the eastern islands as the villagers would paddle out from the beach in their little dug-out canoes and instead of staring and calling ‘hello mister’, the call was for ‘pen, paper, mask, ball...’. - not quite so endearing! Although we did not experience it first hand, friends told us that they were presented with magazine pictures of what they wanted!


We spent a couple of really enjoyable nights off a beautiful small island in the Riung national park - getting together for a beach BBQ with a couple of other boats - dancing in the sand was great for exfoliating the feet and a good workout. Lots of snorkelling, paddle boarding and climbing to the top of the island for the view. From there it was into Riung village and a night of the obligatory speeches from local dignitaries and then on to Labuan Bajo and the Komodo National park......

Flores..and a visit home for Sara

SailingPosted by Chris Thu, October 08, 2015 03:33:42

Then on to Flores from where Sara flew home for brief visit to see the family and attend Tom (nephew) and Rosie’s wedding. There was no where suitable to leave Tulu unattended so Chris stayed behind at anchor off the Sea World Resort, Maumere on the north coast of Flores.


We were towards the front of the fleet as we approached Maumere to give us time to settle into the anchorage, get Chris known in the resort so that he would be well fed in Sara’s absence and it gave us both a chance to take a day trip to see the coloured volcanic lakes of Kelimutu. The drive across the island in itself was very interesting, through villages and paddy fields, but the lakes were spectacular - three lakes of different colours, each in separate craters. The colour of each lake at any given time depends upon the volcanic activity at the time - an ever changing kaleidoscope.


Sara flew to Bali on 28th August, had a night there, and then on to London via Doha. Straight to Stamford for the bank holiday with Jonno and Bex including shopping for a wedding outfit, then back to London to apply for a new Indonesian visa (single entry only) on the Tuesday morning and then a train to Somerset after a quick coffee with New Zealand friends, David and Brenda who happen to be in town. Phew! It was lovely to see Granny and to stay at the farm. Communications from Indonesia have not been easy so I have not spoken to her as much as I would have liked, so it was particularly good to see her. The next day I drove to Penarth to see Molly (Chris’ mother) and then back via Ashcott to catch up with the Haynes and Griffs. A couple of days helping with wedding flowers and then Tom and Rosies beautiful and very emotional wedding on the Saturday followed the next day by a superb lunch party thrown by Rog (Sara’s brother) and Lou. This gave her a chance to see so many more friends than would have otherwise been possible, but best of all it was wonderful to have Jonno and Bex and Will and Charlotte all together. After the lunch party it was farewell to Mum again and back to London with Will and Charlotte, stay in their new house, seen for the first time, and then fly back to Indonesia, again to Bali and on to Flores the next day. A truly flying visit with only a week in the UK but definitely worth the hassle.


As for Chris, we thought he would be a bit lonely with Sara away, but not a bit of it. As Maumere was the stop for visa renewals he had plenty of company, particularly as in true Indonesian style this process was a bureaucratic nightmare with some people being delayed for almost a week. Chris led the charge trying to smooth the way and persuade the local authorities that this process could be a smooth one - not quite sure whether that was achieved exactly, but the rest of the fleet were grateful for his help. As a result he was bought countless happy hour beers and only ate one meal from the freezer.


As we again headed west along Flores towards Riung we made a number of night stops. You could tell we were heading into an area of Indonesia where the locals are far more used to seeing foreign boats than in the eastern islands as the villagers would paddle out from the beach in their little dug-out canoes and instead of staring and calling ‘hello mister’, the call was for ‘pen, paper, mask, ball...’. - not quite so endearing! Although we did not experience it first hand, friends told us that they were presented with magazine pictures of what they wanted!


We spent a couple of really enjoyable nights off a beautiful small island in the Riung national park - getting together for a beach BBQ with a couple of other boats - dancing in the sand was great for exfoliating the feet and a good workout. Lots of snorkelling, paddle boarding and climbing to the top of the island for the view. From there it was into Riung village and a night of the obligatory speeches from local dignitaries and then on to Labuan Bajo and the Komodo National park......

Wakatobi, Indonesia

SailingPosted by Chris Wed, August 26, 2015 13:00:40

Wakatobi is made up of a number of islands the main one being Wangi-Wangi where, unknown to us, several activities had been organised for the rally. After the hectic schedule in Buru, we decided that instead of heading straight to Wangi-Wangi we would spend a few days relaxing at Hoga island where there is little more than a dive resort (of sorts) lovely beaches and lots of superb snorkeling. Several other boats had the same idea so we had plenty of company. Lynne from Sunchaser and I were dropped off with our paddle boards upwind and up current of a stilt village in the Kapedulpa lagoon, across the water from our anchorage. We had a great time paddling through the stilt village, home of the Bajo people, who are a marine tribe living their very simple lives almost entirely on the water using small canoes called soppe as their means of transport. We certainly caused quite a stir as everyone came out to watch and wave - they obviously have rarely seen anything like it before!


After a few days relaxing, and Chris getting over a nasty cough and cold, we headed up to the town of Wanci on the island of Wangi Wangi for more insight into the way of life and traditions of this part of Indonesia. We arrived just after lunch and straight away Sara jumped ship to go across to a neighbouring island where we were invited to attend a Kariya ceremony. Not knowing quite what this was, she went along and was soon told that young adolescent boys and girls would be purified and paraded around the village with much ritual and celebration. All the locals were dressed up in brightly coloured traditional clothes and the youngsters who were coming of age wore elaborate headdresses and lots of makeup. We (again!) had speeches welcoming us to their Kariya festival followed by a feast with all manner of (but not particularly appetising) food. The girls were presented to one of the village elders who daubed their feet and ankles with ginger dipped in a white powder with lots of whooping and shouting and dancing from their mothers. Then the girls were hoisted at shoulder height on bamboo litters and paraded around the village with the boys leading and the rest of the village (including us) following. The boys and girls seemed to be rather quiet and anxious and we initially assumed that their headdresses were getting very heavy - but with the help of local guides who have reasonable english we realised that this ritual was the lead up to them all being circumcised - both boys and girls - a ritual I thought had been outlawed, but clearly not in this moslem area of Indonesia. I would have liked to have probed further, but with limited language and not wanting to convey my feelings on the practice it was difficult - let’s put it this way - it is their custom and the families were celebrating so we were not in a position to judge, but felt privileged to be invited to share in their festival whether we approved or not. However, it did prey on my mind afterwards.


The next day was far more light-hearted. We were taken to the village of Waehumu where, after the obligatory speeches, prayers and feasting, we watched the game of Separaga a game similar to volleyball but played with the feet and a rattan ball. The referee was hilarious - one of the elders dressed in full ceremonial robes carrying a handbag - see his photo in the gallery. Following that we were invited to join in various other traditional games using large fruit seeds and coconut shells - much to the amusement of the local villagers. Again Wakatobi, like its neighbours, looked after us very generously and took us to see the local forts, beaches and they even showed us their new airport terminal building of which they are obviously very proud.


South Buru, Indonesia

SailingPosted by Chris Fri, August 21, 2015 05:13:03

It is rather disconcerting when you read on the chart “Caution - An area prohibited to foreign vessels surrounding Buru extends about 10 miles from the coast”. The Sail2Indonesia rally have been invited by the Regency of South Buru to visit their island - the first foreign sailing boats to be allowed such an honour in recent times. The doors have been previously closed as Buru was a place of exile for people of the communist party. We anchored off Namrole, the main town, early in the morning on our 31st wedding anniversary. We were given a wonderful welcome with lots of curious locals calling “halo mister” - again, we were as interesting to them as they are to us. A group of ‘guides’ who have a little english were tasked to look after us and were incredibly helpful - Sara went into the village one afternoon to try to buy some bananas and before long she was on the back of a moped (only the driver had a helmet) being whisked off to a market having been told how much to pay. Adventurous or stupid - who knows but she survived and returned with bananas galore.

The organised programme of events in Buru was very interesting but exhausting - lots of speeches and dances and every village wanted a piece of the action. One day we visited four villages! At each we were met by the village elders, addressed in their local dialect and dances were performed before the constant request for photos. We were amazed by the number and quality of cameras and I-phones the local villagers have. Although, after 3 days, this got a little wearing we had some wonderful experiences - crossing rivers by duen (bamboo rafts) to get to Waenalut village, swimming in a sacred waterhole, being invited to look in the houses of the Rumah Tiga people, eating local food prepared by the ladies of the villages all laid out on the beach (palm fronds make excellent buffet tables) and exploring the mountainous, densely vegetated island. We visitors piled into rather hot minibuses with plastic seats while the Indonesian dignitaries that accompanied us were in smart SUV’s. To get back from one particular village that we had to hike to we took a local boat ride home - quite an experience - very hairy - wet and fast and fun.

The final closing ceremony and dinner was hosted by the Regent (top man) of South Buru - lots more speeches (in Bahasa) and dances, but the biggest surprise of the night was when the Regent, who did not seem to have a word of english, got up and blasted out an amazingly good rendition of ‘My Way’ - eat your heart out Frank!

The people of Buru are desperate to tempt tourists to their shores and it is a beautiful island with great potential, but a lot of infrastructure is needed before it can really appear on the tourist map. Along with many of the remoter Indonesian islands they have a lot to offer but need not necessarily frequent, but reliable transport on and off island and places for people to stay comfortably. On Tulu we have the best of both - a warm friendly welcome but a comfy refuge at the end of the day. Next, they need to sort out the bureaucracy and ever changing inconsistent immigration and customs rules - good luck with that!

After frantic Buru we set sail overnight for the hopefully rather more relaxing Wakatobi.......

Banda Islands, Indonesia

SailingPosted by Chris Fri, August 21, 2015 05:12:09

From Debut we had an overnight sail northwest to the Banda Islands, a group of about 10 small volcanic islands right in the middle of the Banda Sea, also know as the ‘spice islands ‘due to the high quality of the spices grown there. Over the centuries there has been much strife and conflict over the spices - cloves, cinnamon and in particular, nutmeg and mace. Again we were given a warm welcome although no formal festivities were organised as the anchorages around the main islands were rather limited so all 50 rally boats were not able to be there together. The three main Banda islands are all within a few miles of each other. We spent our first few days tied back to the seawall in Banda Neira - the main harbour and town which is full of old dutch colonial architecture and is home to two forts, one Dutch and one Belgian - there was an interesting small museum documenting the times of colonial rule prior to Independence in 1945, and airport (although no planes seen) and a local market as well as various restaurants and a couple of hotels. The Banda islands are well known for their diving - but the dive shop did not have any petrol for their compressor so the many keen divers in the fleet had to supply their own air. Luckily this was resolved whilst we were there and on our last day Davo was able to go diving.

Across the harbour from Banda Neira, and dominating the skyline is the volcano of Gunung Api which last erupted in 1988. Sara and Davo went with friends to climb to the top (650m) - spectacular views but a hard climb as the path goes straight up and has a rather loose surface in parts so there was a lot of scrambling and grabbing on to vegetation for support. Going up was exhausting, but coming down was difficult - we made it and it was definitely worth the effort - the volcano is still puffing and is pretty hot in places.

Whilst we were at the top of volcano with Peter and Lynne from Sunchaser a very large ferry arrived. Luckily Chris had stayed on board as Tulu was the boat nearest to the dock where the ferry came in. Contrary to the harbour masters assurances the prop wash from the ferry sent a wave of water sideways on to the boats on the seawall resulting in Tulu being pushed back towards the wall. It was all rather dramatic (apparently a new ferry captain) but luckily the only slight damage we sustained was a small gouge in the bottom of the starboard rudder which Chris was able to patch with some special putty. Needless to say Chris very quickly moved away from the seawall and we anchored off the opposite shore of Gunung Api. The whole experience was rather draining and left us a bit shaken as it could have been so much worse and we are a very long way from anywhere where repairs could be made - anyway, we were fine.

On our way to Banda our faithful big blue spinnaker that has dragged us more than half way round the world blew out. It was not very windy but we had a nasty seaway - as we came out of the lee of a small island one particular wave tossed us sideways and bang - big blue was no more. This did not come as a great surprise to us as a sailmaker in Brisbane who did a few repairs on it said that with all the UV exposure that it had had over the years of usage it would not last much longer. We may have a go at repairing it - we have lovely friends Mike and Rosie on Shakti who have good sewing machine and are very willing to help as well as other offers. One of the wonderful aspects of a rally is that there are always plenty of offers of help when needed as there are so many boats around - this can also play the other way however which Sunchaser found when another boat lifted their anchor and they were blown onto a lee shore - only to be saved by Chris and others in dingies keeping them off the rocks although they did sustain a bit of damage (typically these things happen when no one is on board).

Dramas aside, we had a lovely time in the Banda Islands. We took a tour over to Banda Besar where the main nutmeg plantations are. Along side the nutmeg trees are enormous almond trees which provide shade for the nutmeg. We were shown the local harvesting techniques and as we walked around the village the smell of the spices was intoxicating. On the ground outside nearly every house were cloves and nutmeg and mace laid out to dry in the sun. Together with a few others ladies, Sara did a mornings cookery class finished off by a splendid lunch sampling the dishes prepared. We went collecting up plastic with a group of local school children - littering is a huge problem in this part of the world - traditionally food would be eaten off banana leaves which could then be just thrown to the ground or into the water. Now, with the introduction of plastic food containers the same practice is employed. A local man, Maga, is trying to educate the children to collect the rubbish - particularly plastic, and enlisted our help. He also laid on some traditional “crazy bamboo” dancing to which we were all invited and we collected money for him to buy rubbish bins for the villages onto which he will put our boat names.

Sara, along with a few others, was invited to a local village moslem wedding which was fascinating. The bride and groom were dressed in the most elaborate outfits with several changes through the day apparently. We were only there for the actual wedding and wedding feast and we were presented to the couple, gave them a gift and had our photos taken with them. The ladies in particular were all dressed in their finery - it was quite comical after the ceremony to see them all clambering off the beach onto boats to return home.

As we sailed from Banda Neira we passed the island of Rhun (the last of the Banda group) which was the first ever British overseas colony. The island was eventually swapped with the Dutch for their island in North America called New Amsterdam. This proved to be quite a good deal for the British as they renamed their newly acquired island New York.

We sailed overnight to the island of Saparua where we spent the day being visited by very curious locals, did some snorkelling and were wonderfully entertained in the evening on Keyif by our Turkish friends Nadire and Selim and their daughter Gunes. Early the next morning we left for Ambon where we dropped Davo to catch a flight to Denpasar Bali and then home. Chris and Sara continued, overnight again, to our next stop on the rally, the island of Buru.......



Debut, Kei Islands, Indonesia

SailingPosted by Chris Fri, August 21, 2015 05:10:59

We soon got back into the swing of passage making as we sailed for five days across the Arafura Sea, past the southwest of New Guinea into Indonesia. It was a fabulous journey with a following wind and sea allowing us to fly the blue spinnaker for at least 60 hours.


We made landfall at Debut in the Kei Islands of eastern Indonesia, part of the Malukas. As we arrived late in the evening we anchored for the night in a large bay on the western shore and motored around into the harbour of Debut in the morning. We were met by a man in a little wooden dug out canoe covered in coloured flags, powered by what sounded like a particularly noisy lawn mower, who led us round the reef into the anchorage where the rally boats were to congregate for the rather labourious process of checking into Indonesia. As we sat at anchor waiting for the seeming endless parade of officials (that’s quite a loose term - shall we say men in uniform with paper and rubber stamps) boats laden with children all shouting, cheering and waving came past to have a good look at us all.


We were made very welcome by the village of Debut, in fact the entire island had been swept and multicoloured flags were put up in our honour. Everywhere we went people smiled, waved, shook hands and wanted their photos taken. The island laid on three days of festivities starting with a welcome ceremony where we were blessed by the shaman and traditional dancing and singing. This was followed by visits to the local schools for singing with the children and then in the evening more welcome speeches, dancing and our first taste of Indonesian food.


Davo, our nephew, arrived in time for the evening celebrations. He is finishing his gap year travels with a couple of weeks on Tulu. Getting to Debut was quite a feat so we were very relieved when he arrived safely. The following day the festivities continued with a carnival in the main town of Langgur - again, lots of different dance groups, mainly children, all in very elaborate beautiful costumes with the most earnest of expressions as they concentrated on their steps. After more speeches and dance displays we were advised that we were to follow the dance troops through the streets of Langgur for a carnival procession - we soon realised that in fact we were not only there to see the local people perform, but we were also the ones on show to the locals - lots and lots of photo taking and shaking hands and waving - great fun, heartwarming but rather hot and tiring! Some of the children carried locally produced food to showcase what the island grows and how they cook it - at the end of the parade (2 hours) we were told that we could try the food which the children very proudly offered to us - trying to be polite but not really wanting to eat the fish and other food that had been lugged around town all afternoon was a bit of a challenge.


Whilst in the Kei Islands,as well as all the organised activities, we were able to look around the island and go to the local market - everyone greeting us warmly. Unexpectedly the mothers of Debut laid on a magnificent feast for us on the quayside and there was dancing late into the night - I’m getting quite good at the local moves! The only unwelcome aspect of our visit to Debut was that most of the fleet either picked up a stomach virus (or food poisoning) or a heavy cold and sore throat (we got the latter) - goodness only knows what we left them!


If our initial experience of Indonesian hospitality is anything to go by we are in for a treat as we make our way west with the rally - anyone interested in the rally route and website can go to www.sail2indonesia.com

Cairns to Thursday Island

SailingPosted by Chris Sun, July 19, 2015 00:19:03

During the two weeks that it took us to get from Cairns to Thursday Island we have realised just how vast Australia is - we thought Cairns was near the top! We had some fantastic days sailing with good winds aft of the beam and relatively calm seas as we were inside the barrier reef. That in itself posed some navigational challenges and we were crossing or in shipping lanes, but we had a great time. Along with lots of other rally boats, we decided to do the passage in day hops of between 25 and 60 nm (nautical miles) with a 3 day stop at Lizard island for some rest in the middle with wonderful walks and snorkelling.

Our nighttime anchorages varied from being tucked in bays on the mainland, behind coral atolls, wooded islands or river estuaries - all with very little evidence of human habitation. This is big crocodile country so there was no swimming when near the mainland but the turtles and dugongs in the water and abundant bird life and attempting to learn a bit of bahasa indonesian language kept us occupied.

We managed to get an afternoon in Cook Town where James Cook spent time repairing The Endeavor after hitting the reef in 1770. We had a look around and visited the museum, it was good to stretch our legs.

On the final day going up the coast we got up just before dawn, hoisted the spinnaker and took the flood tide through the very beautiful Albany passage (past Somerset Bay) and then round Cape York - the northern most tip of mainland Australia. We anchored between Horn and Thursday Islands where the rally boats are congregating. The mud bank on the shore adjacent to where we anchored is home to an enormous crocodile (at least 3m long). He spends most of the day basking on the mud - we feel more relaxed when we can see him- its when we can't see him that we feel a little uneasy!

On Monday we shall checkout of Australia with Customs and Immigration on Thursday Island and head off for the 650 nm passage to Debut in Indonesia. Although relentless, the last two weeks have given us some wonderful sailing - thank you Australia - it’s been a blast!



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