Debut to Raja Ampat

On the 29th of July we are ready to leave Debut. Filled the fridge with fresh groceries, got some fresh beers and veggies. Fixed the generator water pump, cleaned up all the leakage in the sail locker, got the laundry done.

The anchorage that was previously filled up with boats had just three or four boats left. We were one of the last to head out into the open. Not to follow the pack, but to head up North towards the paradise of Raja Ampat.

We threaded our way through the spider fishing boats that blocked the channels leading out into the islands. Ah Ma was in her element. Good winds from the back quarter made her run at the usual 7 knot cruising speed.

Our first anchorage was a little island called Palau Warelnue. We aimed for the island of Tioor, but we were a little ambitious with our plans. Also the dodging of the spiderboats at Debut took quite some time. The charts showed a comfortable 15 meter depth, but reality was different.

This would turn out to be the theme of finding anchorages in Eastern Indonesia. The charts on Navionics were horribly inaccurate. Our depth gauge often showed 10 to 20 meters more water under the keel than the charts predicted. Eventually we found a spot that seemed acceptable for the night.

After a rolly night of sleep at anchor we continued on to the North side of Tioor the next morning. Here again we found we needed to drop the hook in around 20 meters of water. It is good that Ah Ma has 100 meters of shiny stainless steel chain. We will need it in Indonesia.

On the 31st of July we found ourselves on a light wind downwind passage. We pulled out the ‘red thing’. Our trusty code-0 sail. With the light wind filled the sail up and we plowed on, towards the next stop for the night, Pulau Nukus. A small island surrounded by a large reef. Along the way Roo baked bread and Alma made healthy smoothies with everything she could find in the fruit basket. Life was good aboard Ah Ma. The protection of the reefs of Nukus gave us a good night’s rest, the first in a couple of says.

For the next leg we attempted a night sail, all the way up to the islands of Misool. The sail up though the night was wonderful. Steady winds from astern. Upon arrival in front of the islands of Misool the weather was gloomy and winds had picked up. The waves in front of the islands were stacking up to a crazy pattern. It looked like an episode of the Hobbit, approaching the lands of Mordor. Nothing like the paradise that was promised in the cruising guide.

That same cruising guide instructed us to attempt an entry in-between two cliffs. This was not going to happen under these circumstances. I aborted the approach and searched for a better path through the island chain. It took some doing to find water deep enough to comfortably pass, but we managed and left the Misool islands behind us, onward toward calmer waters and clear seas.

On August the 2nd we decided to drop the hook in front of Pulau Meslu. An idyllic little island inhabited by a dozen family members. We pulled the dinghy out for the first time for a little shore excursion. The village chief was most welcoming, showing us the six houses on the island, their cache of coconuts. We walked around the island in about 15 minutes. But when approaching the village ladies, sitting around preparing food, they got offended by the lack of clothing of my ladies. Roo was wearing something that showed her knees. How dare she!.

We decided to leave in piece not to further agitate the women of the village. The guys seemed just fine, showing no offense whatsoever. They even filled up our dinghy with fresh coconuts for the journey ahead and bid us a good sail.

The anchorage at Pulau Meslu was peaceful, and we had our first swim around the boat for quite some time.

It was only 100 miles to our destination, the Meridian resort and marina near Waisei in Raya Ampat. On this last passage we would cross the equator. As we did we made a little victory lap and celebrated with a cold Bintang. One for us, and one for Neptune, to allow us safe passage into the northern hemisphere.

We were sailing in light winds again, so the code-0 was pulling us along. But suddenly we found her flying of the mast landing in the water next to the boat. This was u expected as we had a fresh halyard that we bought in the Solomons and a brand new block up in the mast. This was recently replaced after it was broken by our ‘handy crew’ during our Covid days pacific passage.

We pulled the sail back on the deck and tied it to the lifelines. We had to make due with the heavier Genoa, which could barely be filled with wind. Slowly we approached the corner of Pulau Bantanta, the western tip of Irian Jaja, a part of the Indonesian side of Papua. We entered the Molucca sea, where the pacific flows around Papua New Guinea into the Indonesian archipelago.

The water changed color to a beautiful deep blue but the currents where strong and the winds died down, so we fired up the engine and plowed into it as best we could. I knew that eventually the current would reverse and rocket us forward towards our destination. And so it did. After a couple of hours motoring at 3 knots, the currents turned and the boat got momentum. We hurled along at 8 knots on minimal engine revs towards our destination.

As ‘planned’ we entered the Meridian Marina just before took some doing finding the path between the sticks. Some sticks marked the reef in front of the marina, other marked the entrance path. No colors during the day, but at night a red and green light, very handy.. People at the restaurant near the marina shouted incomprehensible instruction. But after talking to the Marina on the Radio we got our bearings. Straight on into the berth. A swift 180 degree turn, and we tucked our rear against the dock.

The front of the boat was secured to some mooring blocks, Mediterranean style mooring.

At 16:30 we were drinking a nice cold beer at the posh restaurant of the Meridian, getting acquainted with the marina manager and dive crew that ran the marina and the dive resort.

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