Here’s a short journal of our recent 210NM, 32 hour passage from Namrole, Buru to Wanci, Wakatobi.
The alarm goes off at 0145. The calculations we have made of wind, tide and distance have dictated an early start to ensure we arrive at Wanci when there is enough tide to cross the little pass in the fringing reef to get into the harbour lagoon. I take a few minutes to properly wake up, but right on schedule at 2am we bring up the anchor and start motoring out of Namrole with the full moon illuminating the way, and our buddy boats Harmonic and L’etoile following.
The wind is a bit light, but we are expecting it to pick up as we get further away from land, so we put the mainsail straight up. We prepare to unfurl the code zero “Bertha”, but Andy discovers that the shackle that fixes the endless-furling rope in place is broken, so he does a hasty repair with the always-handy venetian blind cord. We get Bertha unfurled, but there is still very little wind and we are already being left behind from the other boats, so we turn around and drop the mainsail and just run with Bertha. That seems to work with the wind, and once the boat is settled (around 3am), Andy assumes watch and I go back to bed.
At 0415 I still haven’t gone back to sleep so I switch out with Andy. Bertha is filling nicely with 12-14 knots of breeze. The moon is still a big glowing orb in the dark sky. Later, I wait patiently for the moon to descend, hoping for a magical moonset over the water, but a ring of clouds block it’s path and it disappears behind them. At 0600ish, sun rays begin to claw their way through the same ring of clouds on the horizon, and the breaking dawn brings with it wind that is a bit hectic for Bertha (>20 knots) so I bear away. The apparent wind continues to blow more than 20 knots so I wake Andy. He controls for a bit and once it calms down, he gives me back the con. I notice little jellyfish floating by, glistening in the sun, travelling wherever the wind blows them. The original sailors.
At 8am Andy relieves me and I go to bed. While I’m asleep he has to manouevre through a few squalls and hits the top speed of 10.9 knots (so far). At 1020 I crawl out of bed and high five Andy for reaching the 50NM mark!I have brekky and a cup of tea then assume watch. We are going too fast for fishing, so I pass the time playing Candy Crush on my phone and reading Tim Severin’s book, the Voyage to the Spice Islands. It’s a fascinating read that retraces the voyages of Alfred Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin who arguably developed the theory of evolution before Darwin did as a result of his travels through the Indonesian archipelago. I occasionally have to tweak the boat direction according to the wind so it doesn’t overload Bertha, but it’s really cruisy sailing.
At 1150 a really big pod of dolphins buzz the boat! There are probably 30 dolphins and they appear to be quite large, but they don’t hang around. They head off toward L’etoile to visit Hugh. Meanwhile a big vessel that has been a little grey icon on the AIS finally comes into view on the horizon. As it takes shape, I realise it has a big smoke stack, so I’m thinking it’s an oil or gas drilling platform. I’m trying to take photos of it out in the distance (about 8NM away) when I suddenly spot a big log only metres away from us. Need to watch out for those.
At 1218 we are on a course over ground (COG) of 255 degrees and our speed is 7.2 knots. We’ve covered 64.94NM and have 145.5NM to go. The wind has swung around behind collapsing the sail, I start to hand steer to bring us around to fill the sail, but Andy appears in the cockpit and we switch out. I have two minute noodles for lunch and take a nap. The behemoth oil platform crosses behind us and floats off into the horizon.
At 1415 I reassume watch. COG is 247 degrees, and our speed is 6.5 knots in 15 knots of apparent breeze. 79.24NM covered, 131.3NM to go…
At 1421 we reach the 80NM mark. There’s lots of trash floating by on the current. Flying fish launch themselves out of the way of the 12m double-hulled potential predator. Whole Squadrons take off simultaneously of all different sizes, from super-small to quite large ones with bright green and yellow wings that skim along for ages. (It turns out that not all escaped Angel Wing’s approach – we found two little flying fish corpses on our trampolines). At 1445 Andy has risen from his nap to make the dough for flat bread: a really simple recipe of yoghurt + SR flour + baking powder.
At 4pm we do a sail change: we furl in Bertha, then put up the mainsail with a single reef and unfurl the much-smaller headsail. The reefed main and headsail combo is a really strong setup, but we go a bit slower due to the decreased amount of sail. We did this for two reasons: (1) the wind has started building again and is regularly over 20 knots, and (2) to prepare for night sailing. By 1623 the boat has settled with the new sails and COG is 244 degrees, heading on a track direct to our waypoint just north of Wanci-Wanci island. We’ve covered 95NM and we have 115.8NM to go. I’m at the helm, it’s a pleasant sunny arvo and I’m back to reading my book…
At 1745 the wind has eased so we have slowed down to 5 knots. We wind in the headsail and let Bertha back out, immediately picking up speed again to 7 knots, woohoo! At 1801 we reach the halfway point (105.6NM). Andy cooks up amazing mini pizzas for dinner using his freshly made flat breads. Yum yum yum. At 7pm he assumes the first night watch and I retire, but my little fan isn’t working and I can’t sleep! Andy comes to the rescue and fixes the fan, which wasn’t getting any power. I’m due to switch with him at 10pm, but he lets me sleep a bit longer and I rouse at 2223. The moon is so bright, but soon after assuming watch, dark clouds sweep in accompanied by sprinkling rain.
At 0150 I wake Andy, and at 0415 we switch out again. Just before 6am it’s peak hour. Three well-lit tankers surround us, and I can see a little flashing beacon in the distance that marks the edge of our destination, still 20NM away. I’m a bit sick of listening to podcasts, so I switch to music. Shuffle chooses Jessie’s Girl. I notice that my phone has reception again and the time zone has gone back an hour. Dawn begins to backlight the clouds in various shades of orange, and soon half the sky is streaked with fluorescent orange hues.
At 0549 (new time) we reach the 200NM mark. I’m now on the lookout for fish-attracting devices (FADs) and floating fishing platforms. Another rally boat has reported seeing them around the island along our approach, but so far so good. Shortly after Andy rises again. We reach our waypoint and begin to traverse across the north of the island, then head south along the western side of it. We start the motors and wind in Bertha. We see a couple of yacht masts leaving and we talk to Yara who inform us that the channel into the lagoon has been widened and deepened so it is no longer only traversible at high tide. This take the pressure off. Several FADs come into view, but they are clearly visible in the morning light. So it’s easy motor-sailing for the last few miles. We start looking out for the poles that indicate the channel but can’t see any. Instead we see two red bouys, which turn out to be the new channel markers. I head up to the bow to look out for any bommies etc, but we get through the channel without any fuss. With Yara and a couple of other boats’ departure that morning, we are the only yacht here, so we drop anchor in the middle of the lagoon in three metres of water, but that is short-lived because the harbour master almost immediately radios to tell us that we need to move because we are in the path of the regular ferry. We up-anchor and move about 100 metres and try again. And with that, we have made it to WAKATOBI!