[151007, 0841 UTC, Tobelo, Halmahera, Indonesia,01°39.63'N / 128°34.96'E]
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In our last, very brief Passage Note we told you of our leaving the Philippines to join a rally to Indonesia. We also gave you the devastating news about an abduction of four of our friends at Holiday Oceanview Marina on Samal Island in the Philippines just three weeks after we left there. Unfortunately, there has been no news of their condition and no claim of responsibility from the terrorists who carried out the attack. Our Passage Note before that was in May of this year, so we feel the need to back up, bring you up to date and fill in some gaps.
After a major refit for Carina, we launched her in April and tackled the myriad details for readying a boat for sea. We won't bore you with a list but let us just say nearly every system received attention and Carina is looking spiffy and sailing like a dream. Since the start of the rally that would take us back to Indonesia wasn't going to be until late August, we felt we had plenty of time to get Carina ready and squeeze in a trip to the USA for Philip. Even with the time we had, we worked every day in the suffocating tropical heat, except Sundays, when we took a day to explore the labyrinth of bumpy back country roads (or tracks!) on Samal Island on our little Honda motorbike.
Even without the horrific abductions, it has been an eventful year. In early May, Philip decided to consult with a cardiologist at Davao Doctor's Hospital. He had been exercising daily and pretty much felt okay but since it had been three years since his heart attack and treatment at an Australian hospital, he decided it would be a good idea to have a stress test taken. The results were disappointing. The technicians stopped the test early, printed out the results of the test and an ECG and sent him to talk to the cardiologist. The hospital assigns what they call a MET score for the stress test. Philip's score was 2.9 and the info sheet he was given said he could engage in activities like playing cards, slow dancing or playing tiddly-winks. You get the idea. The doctor said there "some blockage" in his arteries. Philip's faith in this hospital and its doctors waned when the surgeon he wanted to talk to about intervention blew off an appointment. He decided he would think about his options and made arrangements to travel back to the US to visit family and friends and take care of some personal business. Meanwhile, Leslie would stay in the Philippines, care for Jake, and continue to sew and repair sails and to check some things off Carina's to-do list.
In early June, Philip flew from Davao to Manila, over-nighted in Manila and then flew Korean Air back to Seattle where he rented a car. Friends Wendy and Larry Hufnagle graciously offered to put Philip up and he eventually acceded. It was a blast ending each day with convivial company, sustenance, and water glasses filled with Larry's good Tennessee bourbon rather than returning to our empty, echoing house and sleeping on an air-mattress. He spent days visiting with Wendy and Larry, Joan and Tom, John and Gaye, Richard and Beth and other friends - including the Port Madison Yacht Club gang - he had not seen in a long time (too many friends to mention; thank you all). He also did a significant amount of work pressure-washing the whole house getting it ready to be painted. We had painted it ourselves 12 long years ago just before setting off on our cruising adventure and it was starting to show its age. Ken Gerken, our property manager, was a godsend, loaning out tools and giving great advice.
After two weeks, Philip boarded another airplane, this one heading east for a long trip of very short duration to visit family in CT and MA. Les' folks met him at the airport, wined and dined him and even lent him the use of Peter's truck for road trips to visit his family. Philip's brother John hosted a gathering at his house and any family members wishing and able to show up stopped by (bad timing; it was Father's Day). It was a treat to see all of his brothers and sisters and many nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews. He was also able to drive to Keene NH to have lunch with Louise DiNuovo which was another treat.
After a too-short visit, Eleanor and Peter chauffeured Philip to Bradley Field at an ungodly hour of the morning and he again flew back to Seattle. More work on the house and he appreciated friends, Joan and Tom's help in painting some of the trim. Soon, time was up and it was time to slog back to the Philippines. It was hard to believe how quickly a month will pass when you are amongst friends and family whom you love. Les met Philip at the airport in Davao for a happy reunion and we used a taxi, ferry and habal-habal transportation (a motorcycle with a side car) for the two-hour trip to the marina on Samal Island.
After ruminating over his options for two months, Philip finally decided he had to do something about the apparent blockage in his heart. His theory was it probably was not a good idea to suffer another heart attack far from home on a strange tropical island. We had heard good reports about St Luke's hospital in Manila. We did some research and found it had been certified as one of twenty of the best hospitals in the world. A short phone call to the International Patient Center at the hospital resulted in an appointment in one week's time to see Dr. Buendia, a cardiologist surgeon, and admission to the hospital if needed. Philip again retraced his steps: van from marina to ferry, ferry to Davao and taxi to airport. It is a short two-hour flight on a Boeing 737 from Davao to Manila at a cost of $50 one-way. And, once again, Leslie stayed with the boat and Jake while Philip made the trip. (Philip was amused by the medical staff - including the concierge in the international patient care department, Miles Tolentino - since they did not understand a cruiser's special circumstances. Looking around the hospital room with bewilderment: "Where is your partner? Have you no children to look after you? You are here all by yourself?)
Dr. Buendia reviewed the results of various medical tests taken at the Davao hospital, including the ECG taken during the stress test. He suggested an angiogram (to determine the extent of blockage) followed by angioplasty if needed. Philip agreed to this but wanted time to think about other options if the angiogram results showed more significant problems that might require more drastic surgery. The next day Philip was prepped and the procedures performed. Dr. Buendia inserted two stents and there were no problems during the surgery or at recovery. After a total of one week, Philip was feeling fit again and on his way back to Leslie and the marina.
All that behind us, we left Samal Island, Philiippines on August 29 and fought fierce currents and contrary wind to head the 250 miles into Indonesia. We had to motor way more then we are used to but there was no other way to get south.
Ah, and so here we are. The Spice Islands! So hotly contested and over which much blood has been shed throughout the centuries by the English, Spanish, Dutch and with a few Portugese thrown in for good measure. And even as recent as 15 years ago in some locations, the scene of a civil war. In Sangihe and Tobelo, we walked the streets past the warehouses stinking of copra but tempered with the delightful scent of nutmeg, mace and cloves. Piles of those spices were spread out on the sidewalks to dry in the hot tropical sun. Large trucks pull up in front of warehouses and a copra farmer will haggle with a buyer over price. Soon, young men are hauling huge white bags filled with copra off the truck to be weighed on vintage brass balances and stored inside dark cavernous dusty warehouses. There seems to be a tremendous demand for copra; used for making coconut oil and many cosmetics.
Because these places get so few visitors, the people we meet, young and old, look at us with great curiosity and friendliness and call out "Hey Mister!", "Hello Mam!". Sometimes this is their only Engish but sometimes they will engage us and ask where we are from and maybe whether we are we married, what is our religion and how many children we have. They are mystified when we tell them we have no children and follow up with the question "Why not?". Indonesians are very open and questions we might think rude or inappropriate in the US are an expression of being friendly and polite.
In a hardware store in Tobelo, we met the married couple proprietors and their extended family who helped us a great deal sourcing parts, giving advice and even ferrying us to stores and vegetable markets. When we first met at the store, the daughter, Gladys, greeted Philip at the counter and he exclaimed "you speak English, that's so good!" He was amused by her response: "Well maybe it's good for YOU!" On our last night in Tobelo, we and David and Suzi on Sidewinder hosted most of the family at a restaurant in town. We enjoyed a lot of laughter, hugs and picture-taking before finally heading to the port to try to find a water taxi still operating at 2100 hours.
Sangihe was our first stop in Indonesia and it seemed a bit like going home for us. A high volcanic island, its harbor Tahuna is rolly and not a comfortable one but with government-installed moorings and a rickety dinghy dock, we made do and enjoyed every second of our stay. The government tourism group, friend Jeffry and his team, took excellent care of us, offering ceremonies, meals, tours, information and above all good friendship. Teams of high school students interviewed us and their enthusiasm warmed our hearts. We caught up with many we met last year, Grace and Sonny, Victor, Marwin, Deavid, Marsello and even the lady selling honey on the street. Our first day in town as we walked down the street where she normally sets up her modest kiosk, Leslie was trailing behind Philip. Just as Philip passed her, the tiny toothless lady casually looked up and saw him and you could see recognition instantly by the look on her face. She then whipped her head around and caught sight of Leslie, jumped to her feet and came running up to her and enveloped her in a waist high bear hug! After much laugher and pantomime, she completed our greeting by tweaking Leslie's nose (once again).
One day Jeffrey hired a bus and took a whole group of cruisers to a beach for snorkeling and lunch. At a small village, we were met by what must have been the entire population. Officials of the village arranged for a ceremony. To the accompaniment of a half dozen drums, men and boys dressed in fire-red uniforms, performed a cakalele, a ritualistic military dance where "combatants" quiver and stare and advance towards their opponents while beckoning him with sword and free hand to come forward to be "slain". It was a simple but enjoyable performance and we clapped enthusiastically when it was over. On the beach later we lingered over lunch, chatted with villagers and learned to weave coconut fronds into useful items.
From Sangihe we headed SW to seek protection from the unrelenting SW monsoon winds in the lea of Sulawesi, alighting finally at Kima Bajo alongside other Philippines-to-Indonesia rally boats, including those coming from the Malaysia feeder route, Rumrunner, Blitz and friends (and fellow SSCAers) Tom and Colleen on Mokisha who we last saw in the Solomon Islands in 2012. At Kima Bajo (pronounced locally as KEE mah Bah JOE), we could share a rental van and driver from the local dive resort, Cocotino's, for access to Manado, a bustling city of small malls and grocery stores and the undisputed capital of NE Indonesia. Craig and Enn from Sangihe were also visiting and, being Enn's college town and favorite city, they showed us to a restaurant dotted with tiny pagodas sitting over a small lily-pad-lined pond and we were served freshly caught and expertly BBQ'd fish; traditional Manado fare.
While here we decided to skip the main event of the rally, the visit to Boalemo in Tomino Bay, because it would require us to bash into 30-40 knot headwinds along a lee shore for a number of days before we could round the corner and sail into Tomino Bay . Instead we hugged Sulawesi and dropped anchor at Petimati Bay, the farthest NE protected anchorage on Sulawesi, where we spent a glorious week, relaxing, snorkeling in crystal clear water and hiking as we allowed the monsoon winds sneaking around the nearby hills to buffet us. The climate is very dry, not having rained for six months (this is very unusual we're told), and the surrounding hills are dusty and sere, baking in the hot tropical sun. Forest and grass fires cloud the sky with smoke. One Sunday while ashore, we met two young men who had come, with one young curly headed son, to spend the afternoon cleaning the beach. It seems that John and Armin are part of a group of passionate Indonesian environmentalists. They got all excited when they found us with a large pile of trash we were burning, including a sobering pile of plastic water bottles and chunks of styrofoam. They insisted on asking us - for their website - why we would come to Indonesia and spend our time cleaning up their beaches. They took photos of us as we gathered trash. These were nice and passionate young men and we wished them well.
Then on to Tobelo where we anchored off Kumo island, just off a beachfront "boatyard" where men wielding chainsaws cut planks for construction and repair of graceful fishing vessels. Here we left our dinghy lashed down on deck and took water taxis into Tobelo itself for a cost of 3,000 Rupiah each (about $0.25 US). Taxis are narrow outrigger boats about 40' long and with amas extending about 5' on each side, giving them a beam of about 15'. The amas, made of bamboo are lashed to the boat with thick nylon monofilament fishing line; the whole affair flexing gracefully as the boat speeds through the water. These boats are driven by a one-cylinder, Chinese-made 2-stroke engine. No transmission - start it up and off you go - forward only! The whole process of boarding the taxis or, more difficult yet, disembarking, with jugs of water or bags of groceries, is difficult. But the cheerful and strong drivers would cling to Carina, trying to not bump her too hard with the pointy proa, allow us to board by "walking the plank" and then, using the other hand to hoist a 40 lb. jug over the stern rail. Despite the challenges, these efficient vehicles were a convenient way for us to get to the busy ship-clogged port (the pelabuhan) where we were disgorged onto large concrete blocks that line the shore. There we were blasted by a cacophony of sound: horns blaring on cars, trucks and motorcycles, Muslim calls to prayer, container ships being loaded and unloaded and water taxi drivers yelling and trying to cajole their rivals to make way in the tiny space allotted.
Seemingly ancient high-prow wooden cargo ships built in Sulawesi, whose design probably has not changed for a thousand years, also take on cargoes of copra, nutmeg, cloves and mace. Here also, we were able to get laundry done, buy food, and to cart around jerry jugs ashore to buy diesel, water, and gasoline. The officials at Tobelo were especially accommodating and we had fun interactions with the offices of immigration and the port captain. From our anchorage we were able to look west where the always-active volcano spews smoke, ash, fire and brimstone into the hazy sky. We always watched the wind with a bit of anxiety, hoping it would not turn west and bring the fine sooty volcanic ash to frost our deck.
Food shopping at the local "supermarket" is an odd and interesting experience. Aside from the standard Indonesian stock of cookies, candy and cosmetics, there seems little to buy and the products that line the shelves bear no resemblance to what you would find in the US. If we had not stocked up on so much western-type foods before we left the Philippines, we would be hard pressed to buy the foods we wanted for our ship's stores.
As we write, we are broad reaching (sailing with the wind on our starboard quarter) in light winds at a speed of about six knots. We are headed on a passage of 170 miles to Raja Ampat (literally, "four kings"), a seldom-visited part of Indonesia and home of some of the greatest biodiversity on earth. Here we will tour various islands by hiking and snorkeling, and also attend ceremonies associated with the rally at Waisai, the home of the bupati (or regent). Friends have a copy of an IMAX movie filmed by friends of theirs in Raja Ampat, a movie that the villagers of the island have not seen; we hope to be there with them for the showing. We'll try to keep you posted.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake
At 10/7/2015 and 5:13 UTC (GMT) our position was: 01°39.63'N / 128°34.96'E