Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Our First Day At Sea

The Island of Lombok and Mt. Rinjani at Sunrise

Up before sunrise, we three hitchhikers, well... this hitchhiker  at least, were excited and anxious to get up on deck to catch the sunrise. My two companions had yet to find their sea legs and looked a bit "green around the gills" after a night below deck in slightly choppy seas. A cup of coffee or two later and both were feeling much better.

We were surprised to find that the Island of Lombok remained off the starboard side, much as it was by the time darkness had settled over the sea the night before. Inquiries with the Captain informed us that during the night, we had sailed north up the west coast of the island then, once past, had changed course towards the east and were now sailing past the northern coast. We also learned that it might be another two days at sea before we would spot any more land once Lombok had faded into the horizon behind us.

We had hoped for opportunities to make port on the islands of Sumba, Flores, Komodo... perhaps even Timor Leste... as is the regular route of this boat when paying passengers are on board. As we were NOT the paying type and the crew was anxious to get the boat to their final destination a week before the owner arrived so that they could fly home to Sulawesi to visit families for a few days, the Captain had plotted the fastest, most direct route to the final port of call, Sorong, West Papua New Guinea. No complaints from us! We learned that we would be stopping at least a couple of times for fuel and other necessities along the way.

As the ship plowed along at a steady 9 knots in relatively calm seas, we contented ourselves with making photographs at sunrise,  staring endlessly in amazement at the horizon, drinking coffee and settling into the new routine of life on the seas.

Around 7:30am Stella, our cabin girl, a sweet, easy to laugh girl from Manado, Sulawesi, appeared with breakfast. In fact, she would appear each morning, noon and evening promptly to serve us our meals. Breakfast, lunch and usually dinner would consist of either plain rice, nasi goreng (indonesian fried rice) or mei goreng (indonesian fried noodles). To these offerings were usually added sliced cucumber & tomato, banana, and some fish. Occasionally, because the boat's owner was italian I assume, chef would prepare a nice dish of pasta for lunch or dinner. More often than not, however, meals were rice and fish.

For much of the first day, we busied ourselves with not being busy... a welcome change from all of our daily routines back on land. Unable to get the satellite communication system's internet modem to work properly and, when out of view of land, having no cell phone connection was quite a welcome respite. We were a moving island unto ourselves. We snapped photos, napped in the sun & sea breeze above deck, chatted with the crew and generally tried to stay out of their way. Widi, being a big movie fan, made full use of the large flat screen TV and on demand movie system during the voyage.

Our first day out, we spotted a whale in the distance, were joined by a manta ray and several dolphin pods, marveled at the ever present schools of flying fish leaping from small wave to small wave beside the boat. Otherwise, we saw little else but water, the occasional freighter ship or sea bird.

Ist Engineer
Stella & Chef
2nd Engineer
Our Captain
Divemaster & Mate Nikko
Da Crew

The afternoon of our second day at sea, the Captain decided to pull back on the throttle and throw out some lines for a little trolling action. It wasn't long before a nice mahi mahi hit and our man Widi strapped on the fighting belt, took the rod and landed dinner for the next two days (and breakfast and lunch...)

A Triumphant Widi
Mr. T

Other than the the excitement of fishing, our first 2 1/2 days at sea settled into the routine of rise, make & drink coffee, eat, photograph things around the boat, nap, read, watch movies, eat some more, marvel at our good fortune to be hitchhiking across Indonesia and sleep. No land in sight once we left Lombok behind.

 At mid-morning on Day 3, land was spotted ahead and the Captain informed us that we would be calling on the Port of Bau Bau on Buton Island in South Sulawesi. Here we would spend the day refueling and have the opportunity to go ashore, sightsee and visit the market to stock up on provisions.

Next installment: Making Landfall in Bau Bau.

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