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Triton Bay 2017

3 June 2017, Tual, Kei Islands, Maluku, Indonesia

Dear Friends and Family,

Ocelot rests on a calm bay nestled between the twin towns of predominantly Muslim Tual and predominantly Christian Langgur.  It is early in Ramadan, and the mosque calls are long and loud, overlapping, blending, compelling.  Sound carries well over water, and we are kept awake until long after dark and awakened again long before dawn.  We are here for visa extensions and internet and for sail repairs.

Dolphin playing off our bows
Dolphin playing off our bows
Afternoon light on the Balbulol rocks
Afternoon light on the Balbulol rocks

For the past 3 months we have been exploring the coast of Papua, the mostly un‑touristed areas from Raja Ampat south to Triton Bay.  In that time we have seen or sailed with only 2 other cruising boats.  Luckily we are good friends with both other boats, and we've had some great days diving and hiking together.

After our adventures in the Baliem Valley of Papua, Rainer (our 14 year old nephew and new crew on Ocelot) became increasingly ill.  We had to make an emergency return from Balbulol to Sorong and its rudimentary hospital.  Rainer's mom, Erin, flew in from California just in time for the diagnosis of Rainer's double‑viral attacks of measles and dengue fever, both of which are rampant in the Baliem Valley and Sorong.  With Erin's help we got him nursed back to health and were able to sail the 5 days south to Triton Bay in time to meet Aussie friends for a week of diving.  Though Rainer wasn't up to diving yet, he and Erin and Sue got in some great snorkeling while Jon and Richard and Leslie dove.

Reef scene at Aquarium, Triton Bay
Reef scene at Aquarium, Triton Bay
Erin making smoothies in Ocelot's galley
Erin making smoothies in Ocelot's galley

Triton Bay is home to some of the world's highest marine biodiversity and we have logged dozens more dives in these fish‑rich waters.  From April through May the water has changed from warm and clear to cool and less clear as the winds in the southern hemisphere have changed with the season.  Our dives in April and early May typically sported 60ft (20m) visibility.  What a thrill to swim amongst schools of snappers and trevally, and to come upon docile black and yellow sweetlips lurking in the folds of leather coral.  Out in the deep blue we could catch glimpses of black tip and white tip reef sharks or perhaps the large bison‑like shape of a 3ft bumphead parrotfish.  When the currents ran strongly, we drifted along like spectators in a silent movie of intense color: red, pink, yellow, purple and blue soft corals opened their flower‑like polyps to feed on the passing nutrients, and fish worked hard to maintain position against the swiftly moving water.

Rainer & Erin sharing a moment on the tramps
Rainer & Erin sharing a moment on the tramps
Erin snorkeling in the clear Triton Bay waters
Erin snorkeling in the clear Triton Bay waters

Late in May, as the southern hemisphere winds brought colder water and more rain, we had increasingly less visibility underwater.  But that merely meant changing our dives from wide vistas to close‑up searches for new creatures.  Diving with lights we could peer into the waving arms of sea fans or among the Picasso‑like colors of the sponges and corals adorning the rocks.  Almost ignoring the fish, we now sought 1‑2 inch (25‑50mm) critters like the graceful striped or dotted nudibranchs, colorful flat worms of orange, red, blue, purple and black, or agile harlequin shrimp in their clown‑like outfits dragging a hapless sea star into their lair.

Nudibranch Pyllidia Ocellata(!) in Triton Bay
Nudibranch Pyllidia Ocellata(!) in Triton Bay
Yellow pygmy seahorse nestled in a camouflaging sea fan
Yellow pygmy seahorse nestled in a camouflaging sea fan

A one hour dive with friends usually involved 3 hours of prep and clean‑up of gear, plus time taking our dinghies to the dive site and back, so we usually only dove once a day.  When we splurged and went with Triton Bay Divers to get to dive sites farther afield, we usually got 2 dives a day.  Afternoons and evenings we enjoyed the company of Leeza from Triton Bay Divers, and our cruising friends on Gaia or Soggy Paws, comparing photos, exclaiming over special underwater finds, or perusing the reference books for clues to what we'd seen.  Rainer was fully recovered and got a lot of world‑class diving under his belt!

Just to keep our leg muscles in shape, one day we hiked 6 hours through the Papuan rain forest under towering ironwood trees draped in vines, over a 750 foot (230m) hill to an inland lake reportedly rife with crocodiles.

Rainer gets a selfie with a whale shark
Rainer gets a selfie with a whale shark
Mommon point waterfalls are spectacular
Mommon point waterfalls are spectacular

Our Indonesian visas were due for renewal in late May, so we undertook the 140 mile (260km) overnight sail west to Tual.  Heavy seas whipped us around as we passed through a huge current rip and our 16 year old mainsail took a thrashing, with 3 seams unzipping.  After carrying us for over 50,000 nautical miles (a distance equal to twice around the world!) the ultraviolet from the tropical sun has deteriorated the stitching badly.  We finished the passage under motor and screecher (our big new light‑wind headsail).  Here in Tual, our friends on Soggy Paws were able to repair many of the seams with their zig‑zag Brute of a machine, but it wasn't big enough to reach in to the seams in the middle of our sail.  So then began a long, frustrating comedy of broken promises before we finally found an upholsterer with a big (straight‑stitch only) machine who could re‑sew all of the critical not‑yet‑ripped‑but‑surely‑ready‑to‑go seams on this behemoth sail (750 sq‑ft or 70 sq‑m).

The winds are now pretty well established from the east and southeast, so a return to Triton Bay would be an uphill battle.  We will probably explore more of the Kei (KAY) islands, then head for East Timor (Timor Leste) beginning next week.

Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Sue and Jon

Indonesia Letters: Up | Triton Bay 2017 | Baliem Valley | Raja Ampat & Kofiau | Through South Indo | Yacht Wreck! | To Dili, East Timor | Triton Bay 2015 | Whale Sharks! | Banda | Ambon | Raja to Balbulol | Xmas in Raja Ampat | Raja Underwater | Raja Ampat | Crossing the Equator | Arrive Raja Ampat | To Morotai | To Sulawesi | Jungles of Borneo | Beautiful Bali | Dancing & Diving | Venting Volcanos | Indonesia Arrival | 24 July 06 | 22 July 06

Related Pages: Indonesia Home | Diving Indonesia | Cruising N&E Indo | Cruising S&W Indo | Indonesia Letters | SE Asia Flora/Fauna

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