Prior to arriving in Sorong we’d been in email contact with Warwick (Wick) Alliston, an ex-pat Aussie who owns Helena Marina, and also happens to be the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) Port Officer (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; ph: +62811485371). Everything we’ve heard about Wick is positive, and our experience proves to be no exception – he’s simply a godsend, and one of the nicest people you could ever meet.
He’s been busy improving the marina and now has a trailer capable of hauling boats out. But first we need to order the new prop and replace the front oil seal on the starboard motor, which can be done while we’re still in the water. The marina is also a long way out of town (about 5NM down river) and isn’t ideal if you need to live aboard. Instead Wick suggests we go to Tampa Garam, an unfinished, failed resort project with a ‘duck pond’ just to the north of Sorong where he leases the waterfront space. It’s safe and secure – in fact, so well-hidden that it’s a challenge to find the entrance (waypoint 00 50.430S, 131 14.336E) but once through the narrow dog-leg it opens out to a square block of water surrounded by the mostly unfinished bures. There are no marina berths as such, so we med-moor by dropping the anchor and reversing back to the concrete wall where Wick is waiting to take our lines ashore. There were obviously big plans for this place – there’s a huge pool complex and restaurant which still opens for business on the weekends, but during the week it’s quiet and peaceful.
The only downside is the garbage that floats in on the incoming tide. Wick has plans to erect a boom gate at the entrance to keep the garbage out, but for now it’s certainly not a place to run the water maker or go for a dip!
Within a day Wick has found us a mechanic, Rieman. He doesn’t speak much English and hasn’t worked on saildrives before but with the help of diagrams and a couple of YouTube videos he seems to pick up the issues quickly and sets about unbolting the sail drive from the engine. To get access to the front oil seal, the engine needs to be moved forward so we use a pulley system attached to the boom to lift and swing the engine out of the way.
This oil seal was replaced in Fiji in 2016, but when he pulls it out it’s clear it wasn’t seated properly – it’s warped and twisted and frankly a mess. While all this is going on, Bruce is doing a huge amount of information-gathering on the internet, and discovers that the drive shaft usually wears over time too and will need re-sleeving. Rieman inspects the shaft carefully, tutting and shaking his head and we conclude it’s not in good shape. We’re highly sceptical it can be fixed here in Sorong but Rieman says no problem and later that day turns up with a new oil seal and a perfectly manufactured sleeve for the shaft. How good is that?! We’re so impressed with his work that we decide to get the port motor front seal done as well – we’re not sure if this is the cause of the portside oil leak but it might as well be replaced now while we’ve got a good mechanic.
Meanwhile, Wick is our ‘go-to’ guy for everything – fuel, laundry, spare parts, propane. Indonesia has different fittings on their propane tanks, so the only way to fill gas tanks here is using the decanting method with a special adapter. Wick does a show-and-tell at his workshop and endeavours to find us an adapter.
Meanwhile his office manager, Ayu, is also helping us organise the customs paperwork to import the new prop (just a mere 16 documents required!!). I don’t know what we’d do without them – we feel exceptionally lucky and very grateful to have their assistance.
It might be a bit premature to celebrate just yet, but it’s been a hot, stressful week so we dinghy over to the new Marina Star restaurant on the waterfront and treat ourselves to a lobster dinner. Delicious!
All we have to do now is go out for a sea-trial to test for oil leaks and wait for the new prop to arrive from Singapore. There’s a glimmer of light on the horizon….