Darwin, Australia to Bali, Indonesia   June 2008

June 21

Timor Sea:  Saturday

0730  Darwin remained difficult to the end.

The wind did not decrease last night and woke me many times, blowing 15 to 20 knots.

I got up at 0530, while it was still dark, and was uncertain I would be able to raise anchor safely.  Two boats were too close to me.  One had anchored there intentionally; the other, a local boat, had dragged there several days earlier.  The owner had the courtesy to dinghy over and explain that he had reset his anchor and thought he would now remain in place, but he didn’t move back to where he was.

At first light, the wind was blowing 18-20 knots and we were two hours before a high spring tide.  This meant tide against wind, which increased chop, but it also meant that the current would take some of the wind’s pressure off the anchor.   The water depth was 25’.  I expected that if I could break the anchor free from the bottom, the wind would push THE HAWKE OF TUONELA away from the other boats.  I also expected that the anchor chain would have been held off the bottom by the wind and come up clean.  Whether it did or not, I knew I wouldn’t be able to clean it.  I decided to try.

In short, it all went as I expected.  I was able to winch in the chain between chop and moments when the wind dropped toward 15 knots.  The chain came up clean.  The anchor a ball of mud and sand.  The wind pushed us away from the other boats--the stern of the one who had anchored there deliberately when there was miles of space was only a boat length from our bow when I had winched us over our anchor.

(Interrupted by having to go on deck and jibe to avoid a ship entering port.)

At what is now 0810--I’ve dropped Darwin’s half hour time difference and am using true zone time--the sky is mostly covered by low cloud.  Wind is 25 knots.  We’re making 5.5+ on a broad reach under a scrap of jib.

Glad to have gotten away and be underway.

1200  Wind and waves have decreased as we’ve moved offshore, although even now we are in only 145’ of water.  29 miles in 5 ½ hours.  Wind 20-25 knots; seas two to three feet.  I unfurled a bit more jib to reduce rolling, not increase boat speed.  All we need is a steady five knots.  Now making 6,5.  Don’t recall ever before making a passage when I had a date before which I can’t arrive.

Noon position:  12º 13’ South   130º 23’ East.  Bali 917 miles, bearing 283º.   

1700  It turned into a nice afternoon.  The clouds burned off, and the wind decreased to twelve knots.  By 1430 I had the full jib up.

The Timor Sea has the same confused wave pattern I saw in the Arafura Sea.  Waves of three and four feet are coming from many different directions, which makes for rolly sailing.  At times our SOG (speed over the ground) was only 4 knots.  Under other circumstances, I would have set the main.  On this passage, because of the date my Indonesian cruising permit goes into effect, I just let us dawdle on.  Our SOG is now back above 5 knots.

June 22

Timor Sea:  Sunday

Parallel lines of high clouds are tilting wildly.

The wind strengthened above twenty knots not long after sunset and has continued 20 to 30.  At intervals during the night I reduced the size of the jib, until now we are making 5.5 to 6 knots, which is more than I want, under the last scrap.

The waves are 6’, and we took enough of them aboard last night, along with spray from others, so that I had to close the companionway completely.  I thought the cabin might become stifling, but it didn’t.  Eventually the night became cool enough so that I pulled the sleeping bag over me, rather than just lying on top of it.

This morning is sunny, and I have only the lower insert in the companionway, leaving the upper half open.  So far without a wave coming below.

My back has not healed completely.  I don’t have severe pain, but a constant ache, which makes finding a position in which to sleep difficult.

No longer certain of the wind speed because my bleeping instrument system stopped providing wind information during the night.  This is the third masthead unit I’ve had up there.  It is solar powered. so perhaps it will resume functioning today, although there was plenty of sun in Darwin and yesterday to charge its internal battery.   I think it is blowing about 20.

1300  I think the wind may be decreasing, but then it did yesterday afternoon as well.  Our boat speed drops at times below 5 knots, and we could carry more sail.  I’m not interested in going faster, so haven’t unfurled more jib.  I will only when it becomes necessary to smooth out the ride.

Pumped bilge this morning.  Only half a bucket of water in main cabin bilge and another half bucket in engine compartment.  Used my new stainless steel bucket I bought in Darwin.  Should be indestructible.

Also swept cabin sale.  Lots of sand came aboard landing the dinghy on the beach in Darwin.  I think the Timor Sea has washed the deck for me.

I replaced the control lines between the Monitor servo-rudder and the tiller in Darwin.  While the rope is high-tech low stretch, it is still necessary to retighten them frequently when first used.  Did so again this morning between waves in cockpit.  There haven’t been that many, but they come without warning.

Sunny.  Completely clear sky.

Noon position:  11º 59’ South; 130º 23’ East.  Day’s run:  135.  (More than I wanted)   Bali 783 miles  (less than I want when I can’t arrive for a week)  bearing 284º.  However I can’t sail the rhumb line. The south coasts of three Indonesian islands:  Roti, Sawu, and Sumba are in the way. 

Still no wind information from very expensive and flawed instrument system.

June 23

Timor Sea:  Monday

0630  New Time Zone.  GMT +8, which is the time in Bali as well as West Australia.  We have sailed past the Northern Territory/West Australia boundary.  Cape Londonderry is a hundred miles or so due south of us.

I was awaken early by a sudden cracking sound.  Always distressing;  but this sounded like plastic.  It was in fact a blueberry pound cake in plastic packaging falling from the galley,  It landed upright, but I would have dusted it off and eaten it anyway.

Earlier I had been wakened by spray flying through the companionway and making a direct hit on my face.  Had to get up and put the upper companionway insert in.

Before dawn I picked up West Australian radio, which mentioned a continued strong wind warning along the north coast.

We have a bit more wind and waves than last evening, but not nearly as much as Saturday or most of Sunday.  There is enough so that we continue to make 5 and 6 knots under a scrap of jib, although I did increase the sail area slightly late yesterday.

Looks to be a fine, sunny day

1205  Overflown by Australian Customs about 1000 this morning.   Wind around 20 knots; seas 6’ to 8’.  I reduced sail to try to slow us down.  Still making 5.5 to 6+ knots under considerably less than storm jib sail area.  I am not having a good time.  This need to go slow is ruining what should be good 160 mile a day or more sailing.

Noon position:  11º 56’ South; 125º 49’ East.  Day’s run 134.  Bali 653 miles  bearing 287º.

I will continue more or less due west until tomorrow, when I should be able to steer more directly for  Bali.

The strong wind warning continues to be in effect for all of Northern Australia, from Queensland to West Australia.  This is the fourth day, so I expect the high must move east soon.  Or perhaps we will move far enough west.  In either case, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are becalmed after it goes and I find myself wishing I had not wasted this wind.

1600  A long day because of being cake awakened and the time zone change.

We continue to roll along at five and six knots.  Every once in a while I think I will try to sit on deck, but before I do another wave comes aboard.  

Reading Patrick White’s THE VIVISECTOR.  About two-thirds through.  Listening to music.  At one time this afternoon. THE HAWKE OF TUONELA swayed down successive waves in perfect time to a piece by Erik Satie.

June 24

Timor Sea:  Tuesday

0700  A pretty dawn, with the sun turning scattered high clouds rose and peach.

We are beyond the high wind.  I took the risk last night and left the upper companionway insert out without getting a wave on my face.  Wind presently about 12-14 knots, and our boat speed the desired (?) less than 5 knots mostly.  Five more days of this and we’ll be there.

I have often reduced sail and speed 12 to 24 hours before a landfall in order to enter port in daylight.  Carol and I even started slowing down two days out of Dakar, Senegal.  But I have never before slowed down from the very beginning a thousand miles out. 

Early last evening we passed an offshore oil platform and a ship apparently taking oil from it.  I altered course to stay as far away as possible and we maintained a five mile distance, measured by radar, which I briefly turned on.

Just slid down the face of a small wave.  Boat speed jumped from 4.5 to 7.8.  Now back to 4.4.

1215  Wind has been backing, os I jibed the token jib just before noon.  Sunny.  Hot.  Am using one of the small battery fans in the cabin today for the first time on this passage.   From the waves and white-caps I estimate that it is blowing 18 knots.

Noon position:  11º 49’ South; 123º  50’ East.  Day’s run 118 miles.  Bali 540 miles, bearing 290º.

Oozing on.

1530  Sat on deck a while ago.  First time it has been dry enough this passage.  Boat moving at 4 and 5 knots.  With the sun north and ahead of us, the sea was solid, made of stone or cooled lava, each facet of each wave distinct.

The amount of sail I have up is what I would normally set in a strong storm, 45 or 50 knots, just before going to bare poles.  I estimate the luff is 10’ to 12’, and the foot not more than 4’, which would mean 20 to 24 square feet.  Yet THE HAWKE OF TUONELA keeps moving on faster than I want.  It’s hard to keep a good boat down.

June 25

Timor Sea:  Wednesday

1150  Boat speed:  6.3 knots.  Damn.

That was earlier this morning, when the wind was stronger and backed southeast, causing me to jibe.  Now making only 5.2, which is still too fast. Half our time has passed:  4 days.  And more than half the distance.

I got hungry and ate some cheese and crackers for lunch; then plotted our noon position slightly early.

Close enough to noon position:  11º 23’ South; 121º 42’ East.  Day’s run 128.  Bali 413 miles, bearing 290º.

I’ll probably jibe back to a starboard broad reach at sunset even if the wind remains where it is.  I can sleep more comfortably on my right side than my left.

I am only without pain while lying down, but I can’t do that all the time.  Ibuprofen helps, but there is a limit of how much I can take, so I’m limiting my self to a couple of tablets in late afternoon.  Yesterday they and a glass of wine worked perfectly.

We have passed Timor, and I’m not sure we are still in the Timor Sea. 

Just checked the paper chart.  “Indian Ocean” is written closest to our position.

A ship passed a few miles behind us this morning, heading north.  Looked like a bulk carrier, presumably taking the product of one of West Australia’s many mines somewhere for processing.

I had planned to use the solar shower today, but conditions this morning and my back dissuaded me.  Maybe tomorrow.

Finished reading THE VIVISECTOR.  Remains along with David Malouf’s HARLAND’S HALF ACRE and Joyce Cary’s THE HORSE’S MOUTH, one of my favorite novels about artists.

June 26

Indian Ocean:  Thursday

More clouds at dawn this morning, but they have all burned away, though the air is still hazy.  A line of overlapping Indonesian islands lies just beyond the northern horizon.  Sumba is 50 miles away, then Sumbawa, Lombok, and Bali.  We’ve already passed Timor and Flores.  Java is beyond Bali.

Wind about 16 to 18 knots.  We continue to sail at 5 and sometimes 6 knots.

My back is much improved today.  Nothing more than a slight dull ache.  Pumped a half bucket of water from engine compartment, and put out solar shower bag for this afternoon.

I get Australian radio from Perth before dawn.  Perth is more than a thousand miles to the southwest, almost on the same longitude as Bali.  They are having winter storms and it is colder than I realized there:  4ºC/39ºF.

Noon position:  10º 54’ South; 119º 38’ East.  Day’s run:  126.  Bali 290 miles, bearing  296º.   

June 27

Indian Ocean:  Friday

0630  We slowed considerably during the night to below 3 knots.  I kept increasing sail area to maintain 4-5 knots, until we now have up about ⅔ of the jib, and may soon have more.

Although we are still fifty-five miles south of the islands, I assume that we are coming under the influence of the land. 

Twice last night I saw the loom of lights of fishing boats.  Two were north of us around 2200, and one south at 0300.

I was awakened once by the sound of something falling onto and rolling around the deck:  always of interest.  I got up and went into the cockpit with a flashlight, but couldn’t see the cause.  While waiting for the chartplotter to give me a position--I leave it on during the day, but usually turn it off at night--I heard the sound again, and this time saw a flying fish flopping on the deck.  Reluctantly because flying fish are very fishy, I went forward and tossed him back into the sea, though having lost his school, I doubt he will survive.  Flying fish aren’t loners.

A few hours later I heard the same sound again, but didn’t bother to get up, and this morning found four fish in the cockpit, and three on the side decks.

We have a little over 200 miles to go.  Would like to be just off Benoa Harbor at this time Sunday.

1215   We have increased our sail area by a factor of 20 to 24 and are maintaining about the same speed 4-5 knots.  Since 0730 I’ve had the full jib set,  which is 478 sq. ft., and it is possible, if I get ambitious, that I might almost double that again this afternoon by setting the repaired spinnaker.

Wind about 8 to 10 knots and seas down to 2’.  Sunny.  We continue to be 50 to 60 miles south of the islands, which continue not to be visible.  Much smoother ride, although the wind is occasionally being rolled out of the jib, which refills with a jerk.

As I expected the sea did a good job cleaning Darwin’s sand from the deck, but now it sparkles with flying fish scales.

Noon position:  10º 10’ South; 118º 05’ East    Day’s run 102 miles.  Bali 189 miles, bearing 297º.

1815  The cost per hour of my spinnaker has been reduced from $1000 to $350 and continues to drop. 

I set it at 1330 and it is still up just after sunset.  The sailmaker says it is 900 square feet, but the dimensions he gave me seem wrong, so I’m not sure.  In any event it is at least 700 or 800 square feet, and we’re going no faster than we were yesterday under 20 square feet.  However we are making 4 knots now in 6 knots of wind.

The repair is almost unnoticeable.  There is one small patch three or four inches long and an inch wide just below the lowest seam in the sail.  And another the same size where the leech tape split.  Basically the lowest seam in the sail above the foot opened.  I don’t know why, but when I examined the sail it appeared that the seam was only held by scotch tape and hadn’t been sewn.  There wasn’t a tear.  People make mistakes.  I do too.

There might be irony in my wasting wind for five days and then having to work to keep moving the last 200 miles, except that it is not unexpected.  Some of the islands north of us overlap and there are only narrow straits between them,  The land is almost continuous, and land screws up the wind.  Bali is 164 miles away.  I could power that far, but am certainly not going to, unless necessary to meet Carol’s flight, which arrives in a week and a few hours.

The spinnaker’s tack is presently attached to a car at the forward end of a track used for staysails during THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s racing days.  I have never before had a use for that track.  This was the alternate position to attaching the  tack furling drum to the chain stopper.  I had it there when I first set the sail today, but the pin pulled loose and the tack of the sail flew gracefully out over the water in mid-afternoon. 

The sail was still attached to the boat by the head on the halyard and the clew to the sheet.  I lowered the halyard and pulled from the clew and got most of the sail on the foredeck before it fell into the sea, then attached the furling drum to the staysail car, and re-raised it.  I rather like it this way.   Don’t have to go as far forward to set or lower the sail, and there does not seem to be any loss in performance. 

Changed from Monitor to tiller pilot because apparent wind is almost none existent.

Seas almost smooth.  Ate dinner on deck.  Beautiful sunset.

June 28

Indian Ocean:  Saturday

Next to the place where I had crossed off “spinnaker repair” on the list of things that need to be done or bought for the boat, I wrote “spinnaker repair.”

At 1930 hours last night I went on deck and saw black sky in the middle of the spinnaker.  It had split again all the way across.  Again.  I furled it, lowered it, and cursed.  I may have cursed first.

I did not see the sail clearly enough to know what happened.  My impression is that it is a higher seam than the one before.  The top half of the sail is in panels that run vertically.  In the lower half they run horizontally, and this is where the problems have occurred. 

As I have mentioned before, all the standing rigging and the leather chaffing patches on the spreader tips are new.  And this time the sail was set to starboard.  The first time to port. 

I’ll pull it from its bag and look at it sometime.

The sail has now survived a total of 8 hours, bringing the cost per hour to  $250, where it will stay I expect until at least South Africa, the next place I can get it repaired.

I am less charitably inclined toward the sailmaker this morning.


After lowering the spinnaker, I unfurled the jib, and we continued on smoothy under it for the rest of the night, with the wind increasing slightly.  We are now making 5.8 knots, and the waypoint outside Benoa Harbor, Bali, is 100 miles away.  I’ll start slowing down again at 60 or 50 miles out.

Saw the lights of two fishing boats to the south of me last night.

Looks to be another fine, sunny day.


1200  I noticed that the bracket connecting the tiller pilot to the tiller was wobbly this morning, and found that the aft of the two bolts securing it had sheered off.  Replaced it, unscrewing the old bolt from the tiller with one hand, while holding the bracket in place with the other so the tiller pilot could continue to steer.  Only would have tried this in light conditions.  Otherwise would either have furled sail and let us drift while I did the repair or changed over to the Monitor.

Noon position:  09º 21’ South; 116º 20’ East.  Day’s run:  116 miles.  Bali 74 miles, bearing 298º.

With current boat speed of 4.5 knots, we will be there between 0400 and 0500 tomorrow morning and won’t have to slow up much to wait for daylight.

The south coast of Lombok is only 22 miles due north of us, but not visible.  A fishing boat is in sight to the southwest.

Wind almost directly from astern.   May have to change course to keep the jib from collapsing.

1610  Poor sailing this afternoon, with small waves throwing the wind out of the jib no matter what course I tried. 

I took a shower with the solar bag.  Water almost too hot, the possibility of which they warn you.

Land, the south coast of Lombok, is visible to the north.  It is 18 miles distant.  Bali is 56 miles ahead, and at our current 3.5 knots we won’t be there by dawn.

Brought in the solar panels, and ran the engine for a while to be certain it was still will and to charge batteries.

My first arrival in Bali, in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, was memorable.  I reread that part of THE OCEAN WAITS, and in doing so found that I took 13 days to sail Darwin to Bali in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, leaving Darwin on June 19 and arriving in Bali on July 2.  I was both becalmed and be-stormed in CHIDIOCK. 

Because of external artificial constraints, this has been an odd passage in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.  I’ll be glad to be in.

June 29

Indian Ocean:  Sunday

0430  At the moment a beautiful night, lit by the lights of Bali 12 miles ahead of us, a smaller island closer to the north, and a sliver of moon.  But it hasn’t always been this way.

The currents between Bali and Lombok are fierce.  They spun CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE in circles, and yesterday afternoon came upon us with the sound of a train.  I went on deck to see a band of ocean two hundred yards wide leaping into the air as small wavelets.  As we crossed that band our speed dropped from five knots to two.

I went to sleep early and got up frequently.  At various times I found us 50º either side of our desired course of 300º, and our boat speed between six knots and less than two.  Got up for good a half hour ago.  The lights of two fishing boats are south of us, and the sound of their engines can be heard.  The wind is light.  Our boat speed of 4 knots comes mostly from current.  We seem stationary.  First light in about an hour.

1200  I’ve been anchored off Bali Marina since 0945 this morning.  There is no room in the marina and no moorings available, and, as I feared, no room left to anchor properly.  I’ve re-anchored three times, and am told that I may still be in the way of a large vessel that comes back later this afternoon.  Really don’t know where I can go.  This harbor is dries out almost completely except in a very limited area.  I’m not far off a mud bank that is exposed at low water now.

I’d be glad it was over, except it isn’t over.

June 30

Bali:  nightmare

Having had very broken sleep my last night at sea, I went to bed early and was asleep at 9:00 p.m when awakened by Indonesian voices calling near the boat.   By the time I got on deck, the lights of a small launch were disappearing back through the marina entrance.  But the boat soon returned, and I was told that a big ship needed to get past and I would have to re-anchor. 

This is a dead end channel.  A hundred yards north, one of the places I had been told to anchor, I saw a fisherman standing with water up to his waist.  However there is some landfill going on and, as I learned, a barge filled with rock was being towed there.

To shorten this, I had to raise anchor on a pitch dark moonless night. The three posts marking the edge of the channel are unlit.  I had on my headlamp, so when the anchor came up I saw that it was fouled on an old line, one end of which was still attached to something on the bottom.  I was able to free it with the boat hook.

The bottom here is soft, slimy, and slippery mud, a lot of which got on me and the deck and into the chain locker.

A harbor master launch tried to direct me where to re-anchor, by first telling me to anchor within half a boat length of a moored catamaran.  Then by leading me aground.  I was going slowly and able to power off.  Then by trying to get me to follow him to a commercial anchorage more than a mile distant, filled with derelict fishing boats and freighters.  When I realized where we were headed, I turned around and came back and re-anchored about where I was, but much closer to the mud bank that uncovers at low water.  The barge had already passed.

I am not anchored properly.  I am probably all right so long as the wind stays east, but if it goes west, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA will be hard aground.  Also, while I am definitely closer to the mud bank that before, officials may show up today and make me move.

If they don’t I will put out a stern anchor, which will keep us swinging onto the mud.  Setting one is not difficult, but retrieving it can be.  Also I have to be certain that its rode does not press against the Monitor.

This is really lousy.

2:30 p.m.

James Joyce has two great lines in the first one hundred pages of ULYSSES, one of which is “history is a nightmare from which I can’t awaken.”  The other is “God is a shout in the street.”  Even so, I’ve never finished the book.  (The quotes are from memory and may not be exact.)

I have awakened from my Bali nightmare.  When I rowed ashore this morning, a member of the marina’s regular staff  as opposed to weekend staff, met me on the dock and asked if I would like to move into the marina.  They would make room for me between two other boats.  To reach the dock I have to go over the bow or cross the deck of one of the other boats.  Naturally I accepted and moved in less than half an hour.  I don’t usually like marinas, but I wanted into this one.

Later I was cleared by some of the officials.  Customs has yet to arrive.  

The marina is a single open rectangle, with about 40 boats docked in slips on the inside and larger vessels side-tied to the outside.  The docks are run down, but I surely don’t care, and there is a nice restaurant, where after exchanging $200 U.S for 1,800,000 rupiahs, I had lunch of the Indonesian national dish, nasi goreng, and a Bintang beer.

Back on the boat I’ve deflated and stowed away the dinghy.  Will walk up and shower after a while.  We are less than 9º from the Equator, and it is a sunny, hot afternoon.

Passage over.