Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Kupang to Alore

August 1-2 2011
We upped anchor at 10am and set sail for our next stop at Kalabahi on the island of Alore. We timed our departure to try to take advantage of a strong tidal flow that runs through the channel between Pandah and Alore Islands for our approach to Kalabahi the following morning. Most of the boats in Kupang emptied out of the harbour a various stages of the day depending on their timing for the run to the tidal gate.

We left harbour with good winds and enjoyed a great broad reach sail for a few hours but were warned by the boats ahead of us that near the next island the wind switched to almost on the nose. Despite the prior knowledge we were surprised at how quickly the wind change happened. One second we had 15 knots of south easterly with the sails were nicely set and producing a pleasant 8.5 knots of speed over the ground when wham, nearly 20 knots straight out of the north. It settled back to about 15 knots pretty quickly so we made some snappy sail adjustments and continued on our merry way close hauled.

Cruising along the West Timor Coast
The wind proved fickle throughout the day as we sailed along the north coast of Timor but we were able to avoid motoring for most of the day until it died out after sunset. A group of boats behind us reported encountering a pod of whales but unfortunately we missed them but were often joined by playful dolphins as we made our way north enjoying the coastal scenery. By Rob’s early morning watch the breeze had picked up producing nearly 8 knots of boat speed so we actually reefed in the main sail and genoa to slow the boat down so we didn’t reach the channel too early. Karen had the slowed dawn watch 4am -7am and was mesmerised by the sight of the Islands emerging from the darkened sky. New lands with a new set of discoveries to be made.

Amongst the Sail Indonesia fleet there had been a lot of discussion on the subject of this current and the best timing to run with the five knot flow instead of against it. After studying the tide times, the consensus had been around 8.30am in the morning should be about right. On Nae Hassle we reached our target a little after 8am so were expecting a good run through but it appears the collective brain trust of the fleet had got it wrong. We though the initial knot and a half against us was the end of the southerly run with the flow about to reverse. Instead it steadily gained to its full 5 knots against us in conjunction with wind dropping. Result 1 = a stunning 5.4 nautical miles in three hours as we tried to be purists and stick to sail power. Result 2 = throw in the towel and hour later, furl the sails away and fire up the motor.

Dolphins playing around Contrails beside us
The up side was that we had plenty of time to take in the magnificent scenery of the islands climbing from golden sand and coral fringed beaches up to towering mountains and enjoy our encounters with lone fisherman in the middle of nowhere and the antics of the huge schools of pygmy dolphins in the area. However it was all a bit frustrating considering that if we hadn’t slowed the boat down overnight, we could of been at the entrance hours earlier and had the tide with us for at least three quarters of the way through.  Well, we suppose worse things have happened in paradise. Oh that’s right, one did. After catching no fish across the Timor Sea from Darwin to Kupang we finally had a bite in Indonesia. Unfortunately, something hit us that was big enough to bust the wire trace and steal one of our spoon lures.  BUGGER!!!!! Certainly hope it’s got a toothache from it.

Kupang to Alore – 137 nautical miles – 27.8 hours – average speed 4.93 knots – One stolen spoon lure – no bloody fish again.
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