1. Stardate: Long Forgotten - Cabin Boy's Log...

Trip Start Aug 10, 2004
1
4
Trip End Nov 10, 2004


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On-board Wild Card Jack...

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Night 4: A Customs Inspection With A Twist - Of Lemon...
"Gwee-skeee" shouted the Timorese customs official as he sniffed, wide-eyed at the glasses on the counter. A worried glance at Jo. Our stash—four litres of Jim Beam—was in danger...

Day 1...
Upped anchor from s**thole Darwin, chasing a falling sun in its east-west traversal of the skies.

No wind, except that from my insides, released at 10 knots an hour.

Boat speed: 6 knots an hour, engine running.

Earth's rotation about its axis: 900 knots/hour.

We were destined to lose the chase, but the cycle would soon become routine.

Night 4 (continued)...
"Un Poquito mais! Poquito mais!" demanded the customs "official" in lilting Timor-Portugese, almost ready to break into a samba. A little more whiskey he wanted in his glass. In all the excitement he even briefly forgot about the semi-naked pictures decorating the walls of the galley that seemed to hypnotise him...

All we wanted was a stamp on our passports...

Night 1...
First night shift, 12 till 4.

Jo and Al at panic stations. The over-sensitive radar shows us to be surrounded on all sides for the worrying duration of the shift.

Of all things to set off an almost continuous alert on a ship's radar - WATER...

Night 4: (continued again)...
All the while, one friendly young customs official sat, with his hand placed affectionately on my knee. I'd catch the rest of the crew smiling under their breath...

Our visa status hung in the balance, but I obviously had other things to worry about at this time...

Night 2...
That great, glowing ball in the sky nestled down into a cumulus mountain on the horizon, tinging it with a bright scarlet hue - our first real sunset at sea

...and as the light beyond the horizon faded to pitch black, the brightness of the blanket of stars up above was now unhindered by the hazy twilight of the cities and civilisation we'd left behind.

Alone in the darkness. Bobbing on the water like a Fisher Price toy in the kitchen sink; at least the suds were hop-flavoured - no washing-up liquid here...

Night 4: (continued again)...
Enter Jo the Saviour. "Come sit here my wife." Probably a little OTT, but effective nonetheless.

After some jittery moments, our West Timor experience kicked off for real, with a cringe-worthy performance of Let It Be strummed merrily by one of the customs officials on the guitar, followed (naturally) by Bob Marley's best crooning, and a smattering of classics, featuring a rousing rendition of La Bamba (inclusive of latin guitar rift) by Mr. Customs Officer.

Good ol' Mr Napa (the boss) sat and observed, sipping quietly at his drink. His subordinates were happy with whiskey and new friends whose knees they could rub; his mind was elsewhere, thinking of udder things...

Day 3: First Contact...
Deep into Indonesian waters; still no sign of pirates. "What be that on the horizon," spies the captain through his elongated focal lenses.

A mysterious vessel had changed direction: Intercept course.

I'd love to say it was all brave hands to battle stations, like we'd prepared, but it was more a nervous case of "What do they want..."

Some nervous ranting about the (unlikely) possibility of pirates that felt a lot more likely at the time; some worried moments, but to our relief, our "pirates" pass innocently by...

...The gunpowder neatly stowed away;
the cannons stay cool yet one more day...

Night 4: (continued again)...
All the while, Mr. Napa bided his time. He knew we wanted to push on. A day passed. Our visas were "delayed". A night on the town. Mr. Napa magically turns up for some free beers. It was time for him to pop the question...

Now we had discussed and feared the worst beforehand. He still had all our passports. How much will he want?... Will they ask for Alan in part-payment?

"Mister John," whispered Mr. Napa in his usual, quiet, reserved manner—his eyeballs looking ready to pop at any moment as though the pressure of 10 elephants sat on his head..."I was wondering...do you have any magazines...?"

[A puzzled look from the skipper...]

"Hmmm. What kind of magazines?"

[Options: As simple a thing as yachting magazines for his collection of boat photos?...Magazines for a machine gun?...]

And so it came to pass that our passage through Indonesia was secured by two "female art" DVDs that the skipper "happened to have" onboard.

The passports would be magically back in our hands before you could say Dirty Old Man.

Water World...
Onto Alor we sailed, the wind at our backs (for a couple of hours at least), before reaching the swirling whirlpools and unsteady eddies of the approach strait.

Scuba-diving at one of the world's most unspoilt diving spots, Jo the divemaster my guiding eyes.

Amazed at just how much the reefs here kick the bottom out of the chronically over-dived Barrier Reef in Oz. Teeming with fish and coral of every shape, size, and colour. Soooper haye.

Here Be Monsters...
A ploom of white spray shoots high out of the water. We wait eagerly a few moments...Don't lose your line of sight...Nothing...You get bored... But just as you are about to glance away, you see it. The water breaks, and up it comes, a great whale, propelling its colossal body out of the water. Tons of blubber on show. Like your typical Dublin pub on a Saturday night, only a lot more pleasing on the eye... ;o)

Here Be Dragons...
The Great Komodo Dragon. Three-metre lizards that lounge about in the sun and break into territorial battles at the the sliver of a tongue.

Vicious creatures that actually charge on their hind legs for a duel, flashing their razor-sharp claws at their challenger.

Fortunately for us and our up-close camera shots, they are more like cute, cuddly bears than deadly dragons 99% of the time.

A Land In Turmoil...
Arriving in Java just a few days ago, having viewed so many volcanoes, steaming and venting their anger; having picked at least 5 kilos of ash from my nose and having nearly choked on the sulphuric fumes, it dawned on me how much the political situation here seems to mirror the features of the landscape—forever in turmoil, erupting without warning...

In Aceh, the far north of Sumatra, more are slaughtered—the conflict is ongoing...20 volcanoes this year alone have been put on high alert, having shown dangerously excessive activity...A bomb explodes in Jakarta...A 5.5R earthquake rumbles the very ground on which we stand in Bali...

But the contrast is amazing:
Traditional villages hidden in the hills behind big, bustling cities;
violent volcanoes adjacent to peaceful rice paddies;

You could never see all 13,000 islands, but I've seen enough, (way too much to write about here, even though I've dragged on, and on, and on and...)—enough to make me a stay another while at least...

I'll Survive...
And now, like any true Gloria Gaynor fan, having survived the pirates, the monsters, the dragons, the knee-patting customs official, the volcanoes, the leaf soup, the runs, the fever, the motor-bikes, the hawkers, the hello mister brigade, the earthquake, the bomb, and a very interesting Bali massage...

...my next stop will no doubt be the remotest, most exotic adventure to date...

mountain-triBes, ORang-utaNs,
sEcrets lie in wait;
deep through pristine jungle,
in a longbOat lies my fate...

Uncle Travelling Al
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