Our Diary Sail Indonesia Rally (1)

We have now reached Bali and are anchored off Lovina Beach. "How good does that sound! - thought we would never make it!" Just to recap.

The tenth anniversary of our ten year voyage coincided with the start of the 2013 Indonesian Rally starting on the 27th July, on a bright sunny morning with light zephyrs pushing the boats along. Over 80 boats started from Darwin on the day; the Saumlaki contingent leaving early to catch tides through the Dundas Strait. Some others were left behind with gear failure, medical issues, etc. As always, it is sad to leave friends behind… Darwin had been our home for eighteen months and we had made some great friends there, some even sailed passed to wish us Bon Voyage. The 400 mile trip to Kupang was a mixture of light winds during the day, which could be sailed and motoring at night in calm conditions all within sight of other rally members.

It was dusk 3 days later when we rounded the first island in Indonesia, with only the 17 mile long Semau Strait to navigate - then a well-earned rest and party time in Kupang! The new course brought with it a change in conditions; from a 15kt beam reach to a 25-30kt headwind; the wind was probably being funnelled between the islands.

We were making 4-5 knots and Poco was faring well - until we reached Lelindo Point. The washing machine conditions caused by the confluence of the currents was making the steering hard and we were being tossed around. There was also a profusion of fishing boats of all sizes and shapes some lit up like Christmas trees, some with no lights on at all. Then the oil pressure gauge dropped. Not a cause for concern as we had been having problems with the gauge on the trip and had diagnosed a loose connection inside the sender. This was on the list of repairs to do in Kupang. We battled on and with Kupang in sight we felt relieved. Two miles out a small blip was heard, just like a message reminder on the mobile phone, no large cacophony of alarm bells - just a little blip. Where's that coming from I remarked dodging the next brightly illuminated squid boat. Then it dawned on me that's the oil pressure alarm; as I turned the key to switch off the engine, the engine faltered!
We had now entered the bay outside Kupang, so at least we had sea room. We broke open the genoa and bore away. We could see the bright city lights and hear the sound of a disco, but we were now heading out to sea. The wind had eased so at least we were not fighting strong conditions any more. We could see the anchorage but the confusion of lights made the boats at anchor invisible to the eye. Fortunately, some of the yachts had left their AIS on and we used these as a homing beacon. After a few tacks to get into shallow enough water, dodging squid boats, we eventually dropped anchor at around midnight. What a relief!

Next day all hell broke loose in the anchorage as strong winds dragged quite a few boats - one of them brushed against another immediately in front of us - and while Keith jumped in our dinghy to try to help, I realized we were dragging as well! Whistled Keith back and we put out all our chain and a second anchor and we finally held - but were fairly wary of the two boats ahead of us that had dragged onto each other. The next day we slowly started dragging again, but without an engine we couldn't move ourselves even with our 15hp outboard - the winds and current were too strong. So some kind cruisers gathered and manually raised both our anchors (without an engine we couldn't run the windlass!) and shunted us closer to shore. Now settled, we contacted Sail Indonesia who recommended a good local mechanic who came out. Verdict - seized engine… Only way to tell the extent of the damage was to dismantle the entire engine. Keith went ashore with Matt to source a block and tackle and some timbers and beams to raise the engine. I stayed aboard as the wind was still quite strong - and sure enough, we started slowly dragging again! This time I was on my own and the dinghy was on the beach and Keith out of VHF range. So I put out a call and once again the great cruising community came over and helped - you can imagine all the cruisers had their own ideas on how to solve the problem! Two of them raised our anchor and put it into a dinghy together with all our chain (70m) and most of our rode, and before I could suggest moving Poco forward and using the dinghies to go astern to set the anchor, they had motored out and laid it all out - in only 6m of water! We managed to bring in most of the rode and laid a second anchor but felt very vulnerable when the wind turned and put us on a lee shore. So far so good, though - just worrying!

We arrived in Kupang on Thursday 1st of August. 3-4 very dirty days later, Keith & Matt (the mechanic) determined that one of our rear engine mounts had failed and when the engine dropped it knocked out the oil filter and we had suffered instant total loss of oil. It appeared that only the big end bearing had seized and, although we had a good supply of parts, we don't carry a spare set of bearings! While Matt went off to help other yachts with problems, we started sourcing spares for our Ford Transit engine. Lancing Marine, the company in the UK who supplied the original engine, were able to supply the parts (an Australian company also quoted but twice the price!) so we gave Lancing the go ahead. As if engine failure wasn't enough, when the UK company tried to put through the payment using Keith's UK credit card, the transaction set up an alarm with Keith's UK bank's fraud squad! Unfortunately by the time we were alerted, it was Saturday morning over here and we had to wait until Monday to call the bank - a very frustrating, wasted weekend. In the meantime we sent them Christine's card details and the transaction finally went through on the Monday and parts dispatched on Tuesday 13th August - 13 days after the incident.

We had been warned by Sail Indonesia to only use DHL in this part of the world (although we have since found that UPS and the local JNE couriers work just as well) which we duly instructed, but an examination of our Indonesian visa showed Single Entry only, so we couldn't get the parts sent to Darwin and go and collect them (or Singapore). And Indonesia slap a 30% duty on everything and the only place to clear goods in is Jakarta or Bali. In the end, we decided to have them sent to Dili, East Timor, although a different country is at least on the same land mass as Kupang - and asked Isabel (Keith's work colleague from Toll in Darwin) if we could get goods sent to her. Matt the mechanic said he had business to do in Dili and would drive up and collect the parts (unlikely to be checked by Indonesian customs as they are locals). The parts were finally dispatched on Tuesday 13th and arrived in Singapore on the Thursday 14th. We got all excited - but in vain - when Isabel went into the DHL office on 15th, they said the parcel wouldn't arrive in Dili until Monday 19th. So yet another long, frustrating weekend! Then on 19th, DHL told Isabel she needed a Tax File Number (for some unknown reason) and that it takes 3 days to get one! Matt had been on standby to drive up to Dili (which is apparently about a 12 hour drive due to traffic/road conditions) but we had to call that off pending clearance. Then on the Tuesday Isabel went to DHL again and was advised it was a public holiday! Finally on Thursday 22nd the goods were cleared - but Matt couldn't book a ticket as everything for the Friday was full! On Saturday Matt reached Dili - too late for his rendezvous with Isabel but they finally met on Sunday morning. And parts collected, after a day for Matt to check out a possible business enterprise he took the bus back to Indonesia. On Tuesday morning we had a panic call from Matt to meet on the beach; when we turned up it transpired that we had ordered the wrong bearing sets. There was a mix up due to language problems between Big End and Main bearings. We only need to grind the Big End bearings but had ordered these as standard size and the main bearings as 0.5mm over size. This difficulty could have been overcome with diagrams etc. but Matt's English was so good, we assumed that his definition of Big End/Main bearings were ok.

After this frustration/disappointment, we got right to it and ordered the correct parts that evening from Lancing Marine (27 days after the incident.) This time we decided to try the Bali route and use Sail Indonesia's agent Erna to intercept the parcel and forward it to Kupang. Again, the team at Lancing Marine worked speedily and dispatched the correct parts on Thursday 29th August. We spent another frustrating weekend checking the Tracking number and cheering at every little change in progress. The goods finally arrived in Bali on Monday 2nd September, cleared through customs 3 days later, then dispatched to Kupang. The correct parts arrived on Saturday, 7th September with great joy and jubilation (38 days after the incident). Matt then organized re-grinding the crank shaft - with the help of a $20 incentive!, we managed to get this done by that evening!

Engine assembly started in earnest on Sunday 8th September, firstly the bottom end was put together. The next day the engine was put into place and the engine mount problem solved. Bill from Solstice had kindly given us some engine mounts surplus to his requirements. We stripped these down, modified the profile and added some parts from a car suspension and created some custom low-profile mounts. This was all completed on Tuesday 10th. With the engine aligned and the starter motor installed we could turn the engine over to check oil flow, etc. - all ok. The head and other bits and pieces were then added and the engine fired up again - briefly, without the cooling system connected. All good. By Thursday 12th September we had a fully installed engine and we fired it up - first attempt it burst into life! More cheers!! Now 43 days (6 weeks) after the incident.

We then pulled up our anchors to give it a bit of a sea trial. The engine ran ok but forward momentum was very slow. We struggled to cover the 200 meters to a better anchoring spot and re anchored. The water-line was covered with growth and when Keith dived in to check the condition of the prop - sure enough it was encrusted with barnacles. The whole boat was filthy with oil and dust - yuck! A phone call got Rally's team of 5 lads on board and they helped clean the boat and scrub the hull - and attempted to clean the prop. In the end Keith put on his scuba gear and finished the job off to his standards.

On Friday 13th we were ready for a full sea trial and set off for a trip to a local island and back - around 5 miles away. Despite the inauspicious date and a lot of trepidation all went well and we returned safely. Matt came back on board on Monday 16th to do final checks and reset the tappets and deemed us clear to leave and we parted with millions of Indonesian Rupiah to settle the final bill.

We then had a dilemma; do we leave on Tuesday and try to get to Bali in 7 days to get a visa extension - or renew in Kupang. Charles a local agent assured us that we could get our visa renewals by Friday, with this assurance we decided to wait and renew them in Kupang. This would relieve us of this worry further down the track and save us a mad dash to Bali. Thursday came; computer problems had slowed down the process. Friday came; no problem in renewing visas, just computer problems still - all will be ok on Monday. Another frustrating weekend! On Sunday the Oyster Rally turned up - would this slow down our visa renewals?
Monday, we went to the Immigration Office with Charles to see the problem first hand. The guys there were so helpful, but computers still not working! After a long discussion we said that we will wait in the office until they were fixed! This helped as the manager then got on the phone to Jakarta and then the local telecoms company. The office was due to close at 4 pm. The computer man arrived at 3.30. He reset the network and the girls stayed on just to process our visas - including digital finger printing and photos.

We got back to the boat at 5pm and by 7pm, Monday 23rd September we were gone!

What did we do during the long waits? We did manage to attend the opening ceremony for Sail Komodo with hosts of dignitaries and good food, dancing, and cultural displays. We also spent long waits in the bar and waving off the fleet as they departed. We spent time cleaning the engine bay and all the parts - as Matt dismantled the engine he'd put the parts in different buckets. Eventually we had to tell him we weren't a bucket shop as we'd run out - but found another container for him. We sorted and cleaned all the bolts and put them in ziplock bags with the nut size and length marked - we hoped this would speed up the re-build. We cleaned all the oil out of the engine bay (and the rest of the boat!) - one of the other boats (Lazybones) kindly gave us a litre of CT18 Truckwash which they swear by - and we can see why! It's been miraculous. We had greasy hand and foot prints everywhere but this stuff just cleaned it all away.

We both found the delays very frustrating and the boredom was incredible. We've been reading, playing scrabble (Christine won the tournament 45 games to 34), doing boat chores (definition of cruising = boat maintenance in exotic locations!) and going to the restaurant for lunch every couple of days - however the tides were occasionally unfavourable for that… And listening to the Imam call to prayer 5 times a day from the mosque about 200m from where we were anchored - not musical at all…

So the start to resuming our cruising life hasn't gone quite as planned, but as they say "S**t happens!" At least we were somewhere with access to a reasonable city, internet (on board), a mechanic and the means to get the engine repaired. Keith also ordered new piston rings and now the engine has been re-built it is the equivalent of having a new one… We're also lucky to have the funds to be able to do all this properly rather than a "quick fix" job. And the labour rates are much cheaper than in Australia. (Matt has quoted $700 for his labour, plus the cost for him to go to Dili to get parts (about $150) and machining the crankshaft ($160) - pretty reasonable in the end - Matt was very confident and has successfully assisted several other boats in the fleet with a variety of problems.)