28 January 2015, Ambon, East Indonesia
Squall approaching as we head towards Ambon
Dear Friends and Family,
Ambon wakes us each morning with surround sound mosques whose calls vary from droning prayers to cacophony to melody. Then a local church broadcasts Christian music (today, Amazing Grace) blending with it all. The first sliver of silver dawn is breaking as we write, and a gentle rain has refreshed the air.
We arrived safely in hilly, colorful Ambon 2 weeks ago, having made it through our narrow cut between Babi Island and Ceram Island in daylight. The bad news is that the strong winds and rough seas slammed the mainsail around and it split a seam about 10' (3m) up from the bottom, so we had to drop it and travel under engines alone.
Once we'd had a night's sleep in quiet Ambon harbor we realized that instead of extending our Indonesian visa for the last time (thus forcing us to sail west to East Timor and leave Indonesia next month) we could fly out of Indonesia and get new 6 month visas. Boats can stay for 3 years, but tourists get only 6 months. So, within a day of arriving we secured Ocelot deep in a protected bay in front of a maritime police station, under the watchful eyes of cruising friends and a family ashore, and flew to Singapore. Luckily there were some great internet promotions, and the 5‑hour flight (plus down time in Jakarta) cost under $230 each.
Awesome Singapore view from Richard & Leslie's apt
Our Singapore trip was a great success. We reveled in the efficiency of the Indonesian Consulate, who had our new Social Visa applications sorted out in no time. Fifteen minutes to drop off the applications (and $50), then 2 days later, 2 minutes to pick them up! Only snafu was that they are serious about the dress code. Jon had borrowed long pants for the application drop off (which must be done in person) but had worn his 6‑pocket shorts for the pick up. Luckily, Sue (in her skirt and top with short sleeves) was allowed in to collect them!
The major chore done, we explored Singapore by MRT (subway) and on foot, in search of a new computer to replace our dead nav computer. Jon likes a big 17" (43cm) screen and dual hard drives, but to get a laptop like that in Asia means a gaming machine, so it was all a bit more computer than we needed, but we finally got everything sorted out. We replaced Sue's ripped snorkeling fins at a sporting goods shop, and hit the amazing grocery stores where we loaded up with 40 lbs. (18kg) of whole wheat flour, corn meal, vanilla and chocolate. We took advantage of Singapore's high speed internet and Jon downloaded thousands of Google Earth images for all the coast lines of the Indonesian islands we plan to visit in the next few months.
Singapore night view from Richard & Leslie's apt
The best part of Singapore was getting to know our hosts, Leslie and Richard, much better. (Jon knew Leslie from elementary school days in California!) Found out we had similar tastes in chilled white wine, espresso, good cheeses, and desserts of ice cold lemon sorbet doused in chilled vodka! Ahhhh. The things we CAN'T do on Ocelot! With both our hosts working, and Leslie recovering from a bad cold, Sue enjoyed cooking up meals with ingredients we haven't seen in months. We laughed a lot, exchanged stories of being ex‑pats in Asia, and generally felt well pampered in their 26th floor apartment overlooking some of the best of Singapore!
Back in Ambon a week later, the taxi was waiting for us at 7am and dropped us at the home of an American family who has befriended the yachts, and they invited us in for espresso and pancakes. Great way to cap off a red-eye flight! Ocelot was in good shape, and had no troubles for her week alone.
Jon and Sue having fun walking around Singapore
Jon had picked up a bug on the flight, but rallied enough to get the ripped mainsail off and bundled up. Now, where to get it repaired? On Saturday Sue spent hours on the back of our American friend's motorcycle traveling all thru town to over 15 sewing places, trying to find a machine and venue big enough to repair the ripped seam and torn leach on 750 sq‑ft (70 sq‑m) of mainsail. She finally found a man with a big clean garage/carport that could hold enough of the sail to get to all of the repair area, and as good a machine as any (i.e. not very big!) There are no sail makers here, and no industrial machines that can zig‑zag. We would have to make do. Our friend David is fluent in Bahasa Indonesia (and Bahasa Ambonese, which is the local dialect) so he got all the right questions asked, but we were on our own for the actual repair.
On Monday (even though Jon was still semi‑zonked) we spent 6 hours in Iwan's carport wrestling our 200 lb (80kg) sail, rolling, lifting, turning, forcing it through the tiny arm‑gap in his machine. We got 6 rows of stitches on the seam, and patches on the inner end of the rip and at the leach (back edge) of the sail. It's not perfect, but it should hold until Bali, or somewhere with real sail-making capacity. The good news is that the cloth itself is still strong, and this was stitching that gave way. Cruising: doing boat work in exotic ports!
Jon and Iwan work to repair Ocelot's mainsail
We plan to spend one more week in Ambon while we await the arrival (by cruising friend) of a new watermaker pump for Ocelot. We will do a big provision here as this is the biggest town we're likely to see for 5‑6 months. Then we'll head east to explore Triton Bay, which is reputed to have whale‑sharks(!) and good snorkeling. Then we'll start working our way south through the Kai and Tanimbar island groups until the SE trades come back and we can head towards Dili on East Timor.
Ambon city is awake now. Mosques and churches are hushed, bird song is heard, and the roosters still crow. The sea is flat calm, and a high overcast promises a cooler than normal day here in the tropics.
We're anchored at 3°38'N 128°14'E with good mud holding. Interestingly, Google Earth snapped our photo here! If you open Google Earth, search for Ambon, Indonesia, zoom in on the eastern tip of the inner bay, and then turn on History and move the slider to Jan 2015, you'll see 2 catamarans and a monohull. The eastern‑most cat is Ocelot, then Sophie, and the monohull is Per Ardua!
Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Sue and Jon
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