The Sorong Shuffle

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!

This lady is selling freshly grated coconut, among other things. There’s no such thing as dessicated coconut
here, so I dry the grated coconut and use it for home-made muesli. Delicious!
Shopping for veggies, Sorong style
And of course there’s always refuelling and laundry to be done

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.

Here we go again…

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!).

Toucan looking bright and shiny again after a little TLC

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.

Now THIS is what you call a bushwalk!
It’s a bit hot in the jungle!
A mangrove tour with Hans, his wife Debora, and friend Riesman
One of the many beautiful Batanta bays. Although you can’t see them in this shot, this bay is full of pearl farm buoys.
Local fisherman
We haven’t seen any yet, but I’m sure there are crocodiles in these mangrove creeks. There’s an abundance of bird life though – hornbills, black cockatoos, pigeons, and parrots, to name just a few.
Debora is pretty handy with a machete!
We find a little inland lake through the mangroves
And pose for the obligatory foto-op!

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!  

The cooking hut at the homestead
The kitchen and utensils
Fish two ways – curried and barbecued
There’s even a backyard barbie to make us feel at home. Check out Hans’s homemade tongs made out of palm fronds. Very ingenious!
And if you need a drink, there’s always a handy coconut tree nearby

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!

Hans’s parents, Cordelia and Haja, and Uncle Martin, the head of the family. And none of them speak a word of English!
Captain Hans at the helm
Haja and Cordelia enjoying their day off from timber-cutting
It was quite a crowd on Toucan!

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!

Hans’s sisters and nephews and nieces
Proud grandparents are the same the world over
I have no idea who these two ladies were, but they were a lot of fun!

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.

10 Replies to “The Sorong Shuffle”

  1. Hey you guys still enjoying the good life. I have to say we’re really glad to be living in Qld at the moment with sky rocketing cases of CV in NSW and VIC.
    Gavin and I have purchased an 11 Metre yacht from Mornington Vic but due to their lockdown we can’t get it delivered. Not sure how long this is going to take??
    Don’t know what Brook is on about , I don’t build “bridges “ only ‘dicks’. And SYC needs my support, we are keeping the economy turning over. Cheers 🍺🍺😎

    1. Yay, glad you guys are enjoying Qld. Definitely the place to be. Exciting news about the 11 metre too, if you can ever get it there. And we can vouch for the fact that you’re the best ‘dick-builder” we know! Keep up the good work with supporting the economy, love ya work. Cheers to you both xx

  2. Hey we’re not locked up as yet so we are here and waiting. Loved your blog and pictures. Miss you hugely but looking forward to the giant reunion eventually xx

    1. Thanks darling – well, you’re not locked up YET…although if anyone needs to be locked up it’s you two hahaha. Miss you both enormously and can’t wait for the catch-up when it eventually happens. xx

  3. Lovely read as always. Envying your cruising life. No point in rushing home, particularly as NSW is still locked down and Chris still hasn’t done anything about that bridge! Spending too much time at the Southport YC!

    1. Haha – thanks Brook! Yes, apart from wanting to see family and friends I couldn’t agree more, given the mess they’ve made of it back home!

  4. Half your luck Bruce. My yacht “Tequila Sunrise ” is up on the hard in Turkey. I didn’t get there last year nor this. I am just hoping to escape “jail” Australia next year Les

  5. Hi Bruce and Di
    I enjoy reading of your exploits .
    Gives us a lift in this terrible lockdown period. Both Garry and myself are double vaccinated so hopefully we will get out and see the family soon.
    Troy and his wife had a baby girl 7 weeks ago and we have not been able to see her or hold her.
    Mum is as well as can be expected and has been in respite for the last 5 weeks. Sue needs a break as it’s getting very hard- 24 hour care and I don’t know how long she can keep it up.
    She seems to come through any health concern- tough and stubborn and controlling.
    Bye for now- Gail

  6. Hi guys

    What a lovely read while waiting for Adrienne to embark on our weekly Wednesday walk with the Moodles.

    Thank you for sharing.

    You are often in my thoughts.


    1. Thanks Lizzie – I’m glad you can at least get out for a walk with the fur babies. Thinking of you all back in Sydney and hoping it’s not too long before you can get some freedom again – it’s been a mammoth haul for you. Love to you both xx

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