Goodness, has it really been two months since the last post? Apologies – in the last couple of months most of our time seems to have been spent shuffling between Sorong and Batanta every couple of weeks. Not by design, but from the necessity of having to do our monthly visa extensions plus ongoing boat maintenance, none of which has been particularly exciting stuff. Still, it’s all part and parcel of the cruising life, so we can’t complain.
In fact, we’re very lucky to be able to stay here in Indonesia. Pre-Covid, you were issued with a 60-day visa + 4 monthly extensions and then when 6 months were up you had to leave the country to apply for a new visa. Now, during Covid, we’re able to apply for our new visa within the country (although for some reason known only to the big-wigs in Immigration, we get one month less – it’s now 30 days + 4 monthly extensions). Until recently, we were also able to ask Ayu, our Indonesian sponsor, to do our extensions for us, meaning we could stay out in the islands for several weeks or as long as our provisions lasted. Sadly, all that changed a few months ago, when a handful of yachts left this region to travel west but left their passports here with their agent. Apparently a big no-no. So now Sorong Immigration has cracked down, and everyone has to attend in person for their monthly extension. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a same-day deal, but no – again, the powers-that-be insist that it takes 3 full working-days to put a stamp in your passport. And if there are any public holidays (which seems to be every time we’re there – seriously, Indonesia has the most public holidays of any country in the world!) it could be a 5-day exercise. Which is a very long-winded explanation of why we can only stay away from Sorong for a maximum of 3 weeks in any one month. Still, it is what it is, and we’re so grateful that Indonesia allows us stay because, honestly, we’re probably in the safest place in the world here in this remote backwater. We’ve had our double jabs of Sinovac (for what that’s worth), so if we could just stay away from Sorong our risk level would be almost zero. At least when we’re there we can take advantage of the great local markets and hardware stores – the two necessities of life for cruisers!
All the same, it would be nice to come home, but that’s not an easy option either. Apart from the expense of having to do hotel quarantine and pay for a marina berth for the boat for two weeks, all you lot back home are still in lockdown, so what’s the point if we can’t see anyone?? And now it seems Scotty from Marketing has decided that if you come home from overseas, you can’t leave again. WTF? So, we continue to wait and weigh up our options. Maybe November this year? If not, we’ll have to wait until cyclone season is over, so maybe April next year? Amongst cruisers, the saying goes that “plans are made in the sand at the low-water mark” and these days that’s never been truer.
Meanwhile, during all this shuffling backwards and forwards, which takes a full 8-9 hours of motoring each way, we discover ANOTHER oil leak from our saildrive – this time it seems the bottom seal has given up the ghost on the port side, so seawater is coming into the gearbox causing a yucky chocolate-milkshaky goo to ooze out. Our bad – we didn’t change this seal last time we hauled out because the bolt was seized on the prop shaft, and the seal wasn’t leaking then, so…. yes, you know how it goes, we took the easy option and left it alone. Now, we’re paying for our mistake and it’s no longer an option. We have to haul out to fix it. And while we’re hauled out, we might as well do the anti-fouling which has pretty much disappeared – I’m definitely over scrubbing the hull every other week to get rid of the underwater forest growing there.
So back to Helena Marina we go, where Wick’s team do a great job of hauling us out and doing the anti-fouling while Bruce works on getting the seized prop shaft off, the seal changed, and several other jobs completed that are easier to do out of the water. All up, it only takes 4 days so we’re very happy, and even happier to escape the ferocious midges up the river. We must have used a gallon of Bushman’s in those 4 days (for our Caribbean cruising buddies, yes we still have two of those huge containers left!).
When we’re not in Sorong, we’re in Batanta, where we’ve found our own little corner of paradise.
The Saleo family who live here have made us very welcome, so much so that we almost feel like part of the family. Bruce is helping Hans get his dive guide certification, and in exchange he supplies us with fish, shows us the local dive sites (we’ve discovered 8 so far) and is our local tour guide for trips into the forest and the mangroves.
Before Covid, Debora used to work as a chef at one of the nearby resorts, so I’m getting lots of tips about cooking Indonesian/Papuan style. Their cooking facilities may be basic, but this girl can whip up some amazingly tasty dishes!
I’m fascinated by their family history – their ancestors came from Biak (our first check-in point in Indonesia) and they can trace 14 generations back through oral history. If only my Indonesian was better – I have so many questions! At the moment they’re working through a dispute over land – they own most of the land on the north-west corner of Batanta, but in typical Papuan style, other clans try and claim ownership by planting coconut trees or building houses – there’s no such thing as land title deeds here. As part of the process, they recently needed to seek legal advice in Sorong, so on one of our many shuffles back there, they joined us on Toucan. It was a fun day, despite the language barrier!
With such a large extended family, they also have lots of visitors coming and going, most of whom are very keen to have the ubiquitous ‘foto’-op on Toucan. We’ve become quite the local attraction!
We feel very lucky and privileged to be able to get to know this great family and have a better understanding of the local Papuan traditions and lifestyle. Regardless of how long we stay here, I think we’ve already made ourselves some lifelong friends.