[141108, 0712 UTC, Sarangani Islands, Philippines, 05-24.1 N / 125-25.7 E]
Zum Zum Island is named for General ("Zum Zum") Douglas MacArthur and though the island is tiny and uninhabited, it sports two statues of the man. Morotai lagoon was where the Pacific fleet headquarters was located during the latter part of WWII. On Zum Zum, there is little now, just the statues and the remnants of two finely-constructed wooden guest cottages left to slowly disintegrate in the heat and humidity, all in the presence of voracious sand fleas. The anchoring is pleasant just off the dock and there are abundant reefs around that welcome exploration with mask and snorkel. Philip encountered three whitetip sharks one afternoon whose interest in him belied this species' non aggressive reputation. He beat a hasty retreat. Joining us later on the day we dropped anchor was Catimini, an SSCA boat, with Belgians Roger & Lucie aboard. After Eddy (also Belgian) and Glenda (Venezuelan) also dropped anchor nearby, Catimini hosted us all for a lovely evening of conversation over crepes, real maple syrup(!) and coffee followed by rich red wine. We passed many pleasant days resting, relaxing and visiting after months of rush-rush-rushing about.
As pleasant as it was, it soon became time for our departure from Morotai, so we ventured the short distance to town (Daruba) and were met and assisted by Isra (and her husband) who helped us procure water, fresh vegetable supplies, and a case of Bintang beer to keep Philip's thirst at bay. As in most places we visited in Indonesia, purified water is easy to come by IF you have the proper bottles (what we would call carboys, in blue plastic) or plenty of your own jugs. The concept of leaving a bottle deposit is foreign here so, unless you can trade in an empty bottle for a full one, water is only sold to those the vendor trusts to bring back the bottle. Thus we needed the kind and patient Isra, from the tourist office, to assist us.
The water arrived in two separate trips by two scooters equipped with ungainly-looking carriers for two large 5 gallon jugs. One young man had a third jug wedged between his knees as he drove down the street and along the rutted path leading to the dinghy dock. Then it was a matter of putting all 460 lbs of us into Bacio for the trip out through the swell to where Carina bucked at anchor. With the swell, hoisting the cumbersome bottles from the dinghy and over the lifelines was anxious work but we managed without a mishap or a swim. Philip soon returned to the dock for the second load, picking his way around reefs now beginning to break as the tide rapidly fell and the eel grass threatened to entangle our outboard's propeller. We worked rapidly but the whole exhausting expedition took many more hours than planned and we were not underway headed north until well after lunch. Thankfully our destination this day was Dodola Island, only 6 nm to the north in the Morotai Lagoon.
Dodola Island is the site of a once-and-maybe-still-yet-to-be small resort of cottages similar to those on Zum Zum. A sign in Indonesian suggested that hundreds of millions of rupiahs were pledged to its development but we found only sparse equipment and supplies and only a few workers who seemed barely able to keep the property from salt water inundation, let alone to make improvements. Picking our way in through shallows with the declining sun shining in our eyes, we eventually found a nice spot off a small uninhabited island connected at low tide to Dodola. From this spot, we had a fantastic view of the sun setting through volcanic ash to the west over Halmahera which preceded an even-more spectacular sight of the full moon rising and being eclipsed by the earth. And all this on our anniversary.
At Dodola we met an interesting Catalan couple on holiday and we slept hard during the cool nights. Relaxed as we were, we could not escape the difficult decision about our next destination, hoping all the time for wind as our diesel engine's cooling system had been giving us problems. At that time, we had yet to solve this issue. Catimini was headed for Ternate and its Muslim magnificence and we were keen to join them. Such a trip, though, would be against the wind along a lee shore and we were hesitant to trust our engine. Too, the trip would involve day trips, some at the stressful edge of our reasonable daily run - which we hate - and which would make us that much more dependent our on little diesel engine. In the end we decided to forego the trip one hundred miles southwest of the northern tip of Halmahera Island. We will never know if it would have turned out fine and were just a wee bit saddened we missed out on the coronation of a new sultan, a spectacular event of over 1000 people dressed in their finest.
From Dodola, we jumped across the Selat Morotai to land at Supu, a rural outpost at the northern frontier of Halmahera. Our run began with calm winds and seas but we were soon battling a strong north-setting current, headwinds and enormous intimidating southbound swell generated by the remnants of a super (SUPER!) typhoon east of Japan. We had not expected the swell to reach so far south, and therefore expected a typical SW monsoon season swell and protection at Supu.
Supu's bay is wide and open but the northeast swell rolling in broke heavily on both shores and produced surf-able waves on the offshore reef and along the beaches. We had the sensation of rolling downhill as we worked our way in to find anchor-able depths safely away from the breaks. Looking ahead in binoculars, we could see fishing boats still in the bay, so this gave us some confidence we would find a place to put the pick. As it turns out, the boats in the bay were working diligently to pull a sister ship off the beach where it had been driven by the large waves. (They eventually succeeded.) We found a sand bottom and safe depths and settled in to wait for things to calm down. Each day, the NWS discussion for Micronesia (north of us) promised the swell would recede but it continued to roll in. A smattering of giggling children came to visit in canoes to practice English, enjoy our "gula-gula" (candy) and to take and pose for photos, so our time sitting watching the surf was not uninteresting.
Another firm promise of diminished swell encouraged us enough to venture further west to Doi Island where the bay was significantly smaller but still exposed. Doi's northern shore was magnificent; steep and rocky with offshore sea stacks standing firm against the smashing of tons of wave-driven water. If you photo-shopped out the smattering of palm trees you might think you were on Vancouver Island. And, though we would find reasonable holding amongst a fleet of large wooden fishing boats rafted together and cabled to shore, the dangerous swell again kept us aboard watching the surf. Our first evening after dark, the raft broke up and we were briefly surrounded by boats, whose large diesel engines rumbled off and on like erupting volcanoes, as they maneuvered around us in the tight space. Our neighbors proved to be good sailors and the armada eventually went to sea, leaving a small boat attached to their various bits of ground tackle that nearly spanned the bay. They didn't go far this night but performed a complicated dance, choreographed to entrap all inbound fish, and were back after dawn to resume their raft and process their catch. A few of our fisher-neighbors paddled by and stopped to chat but our poor grasp of bahasa Indonesian made it difficult to carry on a meaningful conversation. With the help of our handy Indonesian phrase book, we did, however, manage to trade a thick hard cover (read heavy) biography of Ellen MacArthur for a couple of nice fresh fish. Sorry, Ellen.
Again, our stay was pleasant but subdued as we fiddled with the engine and watched the weather. One truth about this part of Indonesia is that at this time of year navigating by small sailboat is a challenge. Monsoon winds tend to be light and unreliable and currents are strong, ever-changing and difficult to predict. The gods must have finally taken pity on us and a short weather window of south winds emerged and we sailed off slowly west through the capricious currents of the Molucca Sea towards Sangihe Island where we would check out of Indonesia. We still had three weeks on our visa, but thought it prudent to spend these weeks enjoying Sangihe.
This passage, though incredibly slow, was nearly perfect with settled weather and steady soft breezes. Carina, even when sometimes moving on backwards-moving water at over-the-ground speeds of less than 2 knots, was a joy to sail and we were content. We rounded the south end of Sangihe Island at dusk after two and a half days and finally found a favorable current, but only a whisper of wind that barely allowed steerageway and we spent the night drift-sailing north towards Tahuna, 20 miles north. As the sky began to lighten at 0430, Carina began to turn in circles in the dying wind and our distance from Tahuna began to increase due to the current, so Leslie, on watch, started the engine and we motored towards the bay. We arrived in Sangihe to the warm welcome of Helena's Eddy & Glenda on a bright sunny morning at 0530 on Sunday October 18.
While on passage we had engaged the help of Marsello, born on Sangihe but raised in Jakarta, a prodigal son returned to start Triple-M Tours. Marsello had been a great help to us during our first stay in Sangihe and we sought his help primarily to locate a veterinarian to examine Jake. He did, and even acted as interpreter, but the vet, who was the only one on the island, had little experience treating cats and his visits were not what would be described as beneficial.
Jake remains seriously ill with an undiagnosed illness that may or may not be related to the fact he is geriatric. We, anxious to see him return to health, are now treating him ourselves with the email help of our friend Jeff, also a vet, living aboard his yacht in Fiji. When we can reach Davao in the Philippines, where there is at least one competent companion animal veterinarian - if he has not improved - we will seek additional advice and diagnostic resources. Jake has good days and not-so-good days but he remains our sweet kitty and is tolerant of our ministrations and our anxiety-driven need for snuggling and frequent stroking. One morning recently he brought us a prize, the body of a songbird he had stalking and plucked off the bow pulpit. We would not normally rejoice in the death of such a small innocent creature but this act of hunting instinct and its execution without falling overboard (there were feathers on the flukes of our anchor on its bow roller!), warmed our hearts and we praised him effusively. Jake is one tough tabby and he's cheated death before, so we have not lost faith we will all prevail. Companion animals help to make us healthier until, of course, they threaten to break our hearts.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and the not-so-fat cat, Jake