Beginnings

It’s 5.30 am and the sky is just starting to lighten. Cocooned under our mozzie net I stare up at our beautifully constructed thatched roof and listen to the sounds of the island waking up. So many unfamiliar noises of the frogs, crickets, and geckos; the complicated and beautiful calls of the native birds, and the occasional ‘whomp’ as a coconut falls to the ground. And, of course, the ever-present sound of the waves lapping on the shore just metres from our door.  I confess that sleep doesn’t come easily the first few nights – when you’ve been a sailor for many years, the sound of waves on the shore that close is generally cause for alarm. It’s a big readjustment, this island life…

We’re still pinching ourselves that we’re here, and that all the planning has (mostly) come together.  To say it’s been an epic task would be something of an understatement, and we certainly couldn’t have done it without the help of many people, most notably Wick and his GM, Ayu, and the Saleo family, of course.

We arrived in Sorong after an uneventful couple of flights from Sydney and Jakarta, although both Qantas and Batik Air managed to fleece us for excess baggage, despite having paid online for an extra allowance. It seems their scales are weighted in their favour, as somehow at Jakarta our bags miraculously weighed 5 kgs more than when they left Sydney!

Once we arrived in Sorong, we got straight to work shopping for the essential items we needed.  Miraculously, all the furniture and bits and pieces we’d ordered from Jakarta and Bali had already arrived, and Wick had kindly given over his carport to store our growing pile.  He’d also found us a boat and captain to transport it all to the island.  We raced around like headless chickens for two days, buying mattresses, doors, tools, electrical cable, and plumbing parts.  In between, we had a brief catch-up with Debora, Han’s wife, who got so badly burnt last year. The good news is she’s pregnant and expecting a baby boy around December. The bad news is that her burn scars are causing complications as the baby grows, and so she needs to stay in Sorong under medical supervision until the baby arrives. We’ll miss her at the island, but we’re happy she’s getting the best possible care.

So lovely to see Debora and her growing baby bump
Just a small portion of our cargo to go on the boat!

Finally, we were ready to head out to Pulau Dayan.  We needed to coordinate with the boat captain so that he got there the same day as us – he had our mattresses and gas bottles on board, and I really didn’t fancy the idea of having to build a fire or sleep on the floor- we may be going troppo, but this girl needs some creature comforts!

We got Iki to drive us to Helena Marina, where our little speedboat (now known as Toucan Kecil – little Toucan) had been stored.  The motors and steering cables had been fitted and tested, so all that remained was to hop on board and begin the adventure.  Bruce was in his element being back at the helm. 

There she is!
Ahhh, a happy Captain

 We loaded up all our bags and groceries, complete with a large polystyrene ‘esky’ with ice to transport our fridge and freezer goods, and off we went. The weather was perfect, the sea was flat and 3 hours later we arrived at the island to a wonderful welcome from the family – there must have been almost 20 of them on the shore to greet us. They’d done a superb job of cleaning the grounds and finishing the buildings.  They’d even filled our water tanks to capacity by jerry jugs from the nearby waterfall. What a great homecoming!

Our welcoming committee to the Island. In the front are Hans’s parents and aunty, and then Hans’s sisters and their families. Hans is in the grey and red shirt.
Our two guest houses are finished except for installing the doors and windows
And look at these beautiful plants mama has given us

We’d passed our transport boat on the way and they seemed to be making very slow progress so I doubted they’d make it before dark.  But at 6pm they arrived, and with the help of the crew and all the family, they got it unloaded in no time.  They even made unloading the heavy beast of a watermaker seem easy.  

Our cargo arrives
Everything is done with a smile!
The watermaker weighs a ton, but they make light work of it

We piled everything into the loungeroom for the time being, got the fridge on, and had a lukewarm beer to celebrate.  Welcome to Camp Toucan!

That’s a lot of boxes to unpack

Our first few days are now a bit of a blur.  We gradually started to make some headway with the chaos of unpacking and trying to assemble Ikea furniture.  Those Swedes have a very warped sense of humour – it took 3 of us almost half a day to get one bed assembled!

At least we had a nice view while struggling to assemble the bed

Slowly we got some essentials happening – we set up the gas stove on the verandah of the kitchen, Bruce and Hans worked on getting lights and power to the living area and our house, and we got our mozzie net up.  

my temporary kitchen
The 12v freezer is working beautifully, I just need some cupboards…
Finally, we get our bed and mozzie net installed. Now that’s more like it!

The mozzies are a bit of a pain at dawn and dusk, but nothing a few mozzie coils and repellant can’t fix.  The greatest (literal) pain currently is our physical state.  Bruce had a melanoma removed on his foot just before we left Oz and needed a skin graft, but unfortunately it looks as though the skin graft hasn’t taken. Until it heals he can’t get in the water (the definition of torture in a place like this), and trying to keep it free from sand and dirt is a major hassle.  And apart from my dud knee which is still giving me some trouble, I couldn’t understand why my feet were so sore until I realised that walking around barefoot on the sand had burnt the bottom of my soles. Ouch!  So we’ve been hobbling around like geriatrics for the last few days.  It’s an adjustment, this island life…

But for all that, we’re loving it here.  The views are sensational, and eventually we’ll have time to relax and enjoy it properly.

The view to Mansuar from our ‘back’ beach
It’s also a great spot for sunrise yoga – an essential for my sanity right now!
Toucan Kecil on her mooring at the ‘front’ beach, looking out to Batanta island

There are still several pressing tasks ahead of us – the priority is getting the shower and toilets plumbed in, but unfortunately the guys in Sorong gave us the wrong fittings for the water pump – we can’t just pop out to Bunnings to get what we need, so until our next trip back to Sorong it’s bucket jobs for the ablutions, by torchlight.  And then there’s the beast of the watermaker to tame.  And I think that’s going to be a much, much bigger challenge than we realised.

It’s been a crazy, stressful and busy couple of weeks. But, for now, we’re just going to enjoy the fabulous sunsets from our beautiful lounge at the end of each busy day and give thanks to the universe for this amazing place. It’s a wonderful adjustment, this island life.

Starting to look more like Toucan’s Retreat, and less like Camp Toucan. Our all-weather synthetic rattan lounge is perfect for this location
Oh-la-la. Fancy dining with our outdoor Ikea furniture
And this is one view we’ll never get tired of

The End of an Era

After a very welcome week’s R & R with the family, it was time to knuckle down and get Toucan ready for sale.  Eight years ago in Annapolis, USA, it took us almost 5 months to refit her for long-distance cruising.  This time, it took 2 whole months working every day to get her spruced up and ready to go again.  It wasn’t that we’d neglected her by any means – it was just astonishing how much ‘stuff’ we’d accumulated living on board for 8 years!

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Pedal to the Metal

What a month it’s been. We’ve had the pedal to the metal trying to get as much finished as possible before we head home in a couple of weeks. The last few weeks have thrown up some major challenges, and at times it seemed that just when we needed a concerted effort from our builders, the work slowed to a snail’s pace. It’s been a bit like trying to compete in the F1 with a horse and cart.

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