Friday, February 16, 2018

Too posh to push? Hospital shopping in Thailand...

We started looking at hospital options many months ago, back when it started to become clear that we were not going to have as much time to do research on location as we'd planned. We don't have health insurance, so though cost is not the main issue, we have a keen interest in getting value for money. After Ravi's birth being difficult resulting in an emergency cesarian section we knew we wanted a hospital with good facilities on standby in case something might go wrong again.

We started by looking up a few birth stories on expat websites. These were mainly centered in capital cities; Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Singapore, none of which we wanted to anchor at. We then looked at the maps and charts to find possible hospitals with sensible anchorages nearby. Then with a long list of hospitals we sent emails to them all giving a little information about ourselves and asking about the services they offer and possible prices.

The response was disappointing, we only got about four replies from around fifteen requests, one saying they do not have facilities to treat foreigners at present. We tried a bit harder calling and emailing a selection of preferred choices and in the end had a list of options as we sailed up the coast having left it all very late.

As it happened we had excellent conditions sailing north from Indonesia. For the first time in ages we had a lovely time sailing day and night. The current seemed to be with us much of the time, making sailing into the light to moderate north easterlies close hauled fast and pleasant. With the breeze being offshore the water was mostly pretty flat allowing us to make 7 to 10 knots much of the time. In the few patches of windless hours we motored happily on in calm water.

Our most favoured destinations had become Penang in Malaysia or Phuket in Thailand. Both heavily touristy busy islands; well populated with both private and government hospitals. The anchorages in Penang are not ideal and prices for cesarians were more so we decided to press on for Thailand where we dreamed of beautiful beaches and clear water in which to wait for the new babies passport.

Malaysia is very welcoming to yachts, clearance being totally free, the boat can stay indefinitely and we were given a 90 day visa as a matter of course. Thailand is a little trickier so we applied for our 60 day visa in Penang which can be extended once by a further 30 days which took two visits to the embassy and a small chunk of money.

So here we arrived in Phuket on Saturday and unwound our tightly coiled springs over the weekend at a nice Beach before clearing in and looking at hospitals on Monday. The first we stopped at could not help us; they either did not have a childbirth unit or possibly could not offer childbirth for foreigners. Our Thai is non existent so communication was tricky but they advertised obs and gynae services on the bill board outside so we're not sure.

The next was our first and most promising reply from back when we first started researching; the Siriroj international (private) hospital. We knew all the prices and details of their facilities and so were happy to have a check up and talk with the obstetrician. We didn't tell them that we were merely researching at that time; our due date being only 9 days hence at this point.

After a quick once over the upshot was that he would strongly recommend a c section. Not only because we'd had one last time only 16 months ago, but also because his ultrasound showed the baby to be on the big side and with its back to my back (as Ravi had been, though his main problem was a twisted head). We had expected this. Thailand in general and private hospitals in particular prefer cesarian births.

We had already decided that if it was recommended we'd go with that. When researching we found out that if we'd been at home in Bath (UK) they would have supported a trial of labour with close supervision but that if we'd given birth in Australia they would have strongly encouraged a cesarian due to the risk of rupture. So we left having paid for the consultation and with a date booked. (We were offered the next day but chose a little more time, it's wierd picking your kids birthday).

We knew we were happy with the place and thought the set price package to be reasonable. However thrifty to the end, I felt uncomfortable having not researched thoroughly every option. We looked down our list. The other private hospital was significantly dearer and since we were happy with this one we saw no point in visiting that. But there were two more government options. We'd already spent twenty five pounds on taxis, it was getting late and we were tired so we went home.

Duncan was very happy with our choice but I couldn't let it rest in my mind, so after we'd taken the boat back to a quieter much more protected anchorage I took myself off with Ravi into town on the bus. My reasoning was two fold. I wanted to find out the bus route and timings (there are no bus timetables in Phuket, supposedly to keep the tourists in the taxis) and I thought I'd take a look at the last hospital. By then I'd found out that one of the government hospitals would be a similar price to the Siriroj if we needed a cesarian due to rules about making foreigners pay so ruled that out.

The bus took hours! I went for it before 10am but didn't get to town until well after midday. The driver drove in first or second gear for the first half of the way, he only sped up once he'd picked up a few more passengers. It was a mile from the bus route end to the Vachira hospital so by the time we got there Ravi and I were hot and hungry. I bought him some rambutans of which he promptly scoffed the whole kilo. Again communication was a problem but I was able to speak to someone on the phone in English who gave me some estimated costs and said I would need to see the doctor in the private clinic at 5pm to see if they felt I needed a cesarian or I could just turn up when I'm in labour and take my chances.

The place appeared clean and well looked after. But it was also very busy and quite noisy with lots of old people being wheeled around in rusty wheelchairs and children getting underfoot. It's funny that in Fiji we'd liked that frenetic feeling in the hospital but there, they spoke English. Here it seemed a little intimidating and weighing it up I didn't feel the price difference to be worth it.

So what does it cost?

Siriroj hospital offers all inclusive packages which we are assured are much cheaper than if you were to pay an itemised bill (even if you get a cheaper room and stay less long, allegedly)

Natural childbirth package 46,900 baht about 1,060 gbp
Cesarian package 59,900 baht about 1,360 gbp

But if you were to arrange a natural birth and then have to convert to c section like we did with Ravi they would whack on an extra 10,000 baht. Always read the small print!

Government hospitals quoted around 20,000 baht for natural and 40,000 to 50,000 baht for cesarian. These were just estimates rather than packages so we don't know if these are worst case or best case figures. The price for Thai nationals here would be much cheaper, we spoke to one lady who's sister paid 13,000 baht for her c section, I don't remember which hospital that was.

We weighed up the costs and the risks and plumped for a known cost in a nice place with much less chance of anything going wrong. If we'd have been able to have a natural birth last time we would have made a different decision, but in the end and after the last few months'trials and tribulations we decided it's time we gave ourselves a break!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Things are getting worse... Please send chocolate...

I'm sure everyone experiences big highs and lows in their lives. Sailing is definitely always like that. For every perfect beach there is an imperfect one. For every easy check in there's a nightmare one. For every graceful easy passage there's a vomit fueled rocket ride or a slow hot humid slap about. Some days we're proud as punch of our beautiful boat but others the jobs to do are overwhelming and everywhere we look we see flaws and things that are in urgent need of attention.

At the moment we feel like our lives are more undulating than we'd like and that the lows are too much of the time. We've not had personality transplants; we still expect things to get better any minute; hopefully as soon as we get where we meant to be. However the problems have been compounding each other and it's hard to not let it get to you.

Engine troubles have always plagued us with a regular monotony. Pip was installed by us in a newly reconditioned state, but that didn't stop various peripheral parts failing or causing us trouble. Interspersed by dirty fuel and fuel bug frustrations. It's crazy to think how much trouble the engine causes when we use it relatively little.

Our sails, Aeries wind steering, rigging and hull cause us almost no trouble at all in comparison. However we're not sailing purists. We go everywhere we can whilst never turning to the noisy beast; sailing into and out of anchorages happily when we can; but we don't want to be without it. Many places we have been would have been untenable without it and we consider it a safety and comfort necessity.  Though necessity is not the correct word since each time it's failed we've had to manage without.

There were odd minor engine hiccups as we crossed the Pacific; fuel bug problems, anodes going quicker than we thought, alternator belts not cutting the muster, the prop break being temperamental etc. More recently we've had to use it more and so the problems have followed on. The temperate clime's mean less reliable winds and more danger from just drifting about waiting for wind to return.

In New Zealand it was the starter motor which had us towing the boat by rowed Avon dinghy into at least one Anchorage and having a rather nervous time around Fiordland where there were strong tides, blasts of breeze and gales and calms in equal measure. In Fiji it was the injectors. Sydney to Hobart the raw water pump. Back in Sidney the injector pump needed a total and extremely costly rebuild. At the Whitsundays the prop shaft coupling sheared requiring new coupling, adding a flex and remachining the shaft all whilst in the water.

But now takes the biscuit.

We've noticed a few grumbling concerns whilst pip has been working stoically through these islands. We were smoking a lot at idle and using a little oil. We put it down to injectors again and resolved to have them serviced once in Malaysia.

Day after day she's been rumbling on trying to help us get up wind against the strengthening contrary winds and currents. We've had some really horrible passages and even had to give up a few times and go back. Then it all got worse off the south coast of Belitung. We still thought it was the injectors but the noise and the smoke had us unable to use the engine again. Our friends on Rehua were nearby so we knew we'd be ok and managed to tack into a reasonable Anchorage by nightfall on Christmas day. Merry Christmas!

On Boxing day Rehua came to find us and offer condolences and help. The boys found very dirty fuel again and got everything they could cleaned up and filtered, the oil changed and everything that could be looked at easily checked. She seemed OK though intermittently noisy so the next day we poked our noses out again.

It was no good, the noise and smoke got worse so off the engine went but there was not enough wind to sail. The current was pushing us back so really we were just treading water with lots of rocks nearby. We gratefully accepted a tow. Had our friends not have been nearby we'd have had to sail a different way. Over the next two days Rehua got us to the fishing town of Tanjung Pandan on the island of Belitung where we've now been for over three weeks.

Tyrii, their twelve year old helping us into a safe spot in the really well protected fishing harbour of Tanjung Pandan.

The first day seemed positive; we found ourselves a brilliantly protected position tied back into the mangroves and found the town to be more developed and more friendly than many we've visited in Indonesia. Duncan got straight to it and cycled off with the injectors to be serviced. They cleaned them through and pronounced that only one was a bit sticky. Back in the boat the same afternoon the news was not good.

'Noise as bad as ever. Major problem. We'll have to rebuild it; it must be the big end bearings'.

We looked into parts but noone was open until the 2nd of January. So off we went to immigration to explain our predicament. For many hours it seemed they were insisting we must fly out of the country to reset our visas (Singapore being nearest) but we were not at all keen to loose the three days or the extra cost of staying somewhere with the boat abandoned. In the end I said we'd just have to sail on which provoked a response. An emergency Visa option was hastily rustled up. It took two more days to organise the proof and paperwork for this but at least now we're legal.

It took more time than we'd thought to get to the nub of the problem but we wanted to be sure before the parts were ordered. We're lucky our engine is a Perkins 4.108 as the parts for these are cheap and available all over the place. We had trouble communicating with the parts dealers in Jakarta who thought our engine serial number was wrong and Singapore never returned any of our calls so in the end with time ticking we made our order from the uk.

'Watson, we have found our culprit'

It's a good thing we waited until we'd checked out it all as it wasn't 'just' the bearings. The crank shaft is snapped in two places.

It is 43 years old, but the very likely cause is overtightening the alternator belt over the years to get the most out of our oversize alternator. We shall be upgrading the pulley system for this once safely in Malaysia.

It took only three days to get both parcels (new crank shaft, full engine rebuild kit and some more spare mounts) totaling around 35kg to Jakarta. During those three days we spent most of our time in the customs office trying to arrange permission for the parts to be duty free (as they should be here as a yacht in transit). However since then the only movement has been to another island (admittedly near here but there are 5 direct flights a day from Jakarta to here so who knows why they went there) and dhl say they are awaiting us to pay tax and fees. A flurry of emails and phone calls and then it was the weekend...

So this week it appears we have to pay the tax even though it shouldn't be due. We knew the rules say you must ask permission before the parts are in the country to get it tax free which is why we went to customs before the parts were ordered. However they wasted two days giving us the impression they would give permission if only we had one more document... then one more photo... then one more letter... Then no sorry, we do not have authorisation for this. Arghhh so after a bit of a cry in the customs office we forward everything we've done with them to Jakarta. They receive them the next morning just as the parts arrive too.

This all means a whopping bill of 7.7 million rupiah! The tax due is 30% on top of the price of the parts plus the shipping costs. That's shipping for 35kg! We don't mind paying tax that is due but this massive expense should not be due and it's the customs fault. They even gave us the wrong email address for Jakarta wasting us another vital few hours... So frustrating!

Yesterday I was promised if we agreed to pay cash on delivery they would deliver this morning. Today there's no movement, the parts are still on the wrong island.

Always trying to look on the bright side at least we can do the work here. We are in an extremely well protected and safe position. Our neighbours are friendly, the island is positive and safe and we've made some nice new friends.

The machinists are very competent and very cheap. Having a puller made up to remove the crank shaft pulley.

And of course we're together and all healthy.

However the big down side to being in a very protected spot is that it's really hot and humid with no wind and the mosquitoes and sandflies particularly at dusk are unbearable. Poor Ravi has terrible heat rash that flares up during the day and goes down whilst he sleeps under a fan. I'm taking him out as much as possible, whilst poor Duncan slaves away sweating and filthy in the engine room, but it never completely goes.

The tidal water we're in is plastic and sewage rich, so swimming is out of the question. At low tide we sometimes have to wade the dinghy out through the thick mud amongst the mosquitoes and sandflies. Believe me this is not glamorous living.

Not the ideal dinghy dock when you're almost 8 months pregnant!

When we can, Ravi gets a dip in the nearest hotel pool. He has developed a voracious love of rambutan and mangosteans which are available from the market and he's devouring with relish the mainly chicken, fish and rice or noodles meals that are cheap around town. But doing these things cost money and take time away from working on our poor disheveled looking boat. It's a balancing act that Duncan is not getting an even deal at.

This is just some of the plastic that washes up every day on the windy side of the peninsular, where Ravi and I go to play to get away from the heat and the biting things.

Oh and there's a rat on the boat...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Impetuous four....

Here’s an interesting and novel tale,
About a couple who loved to sail.
They bought a boat made strong and stout,
And proceeded to sail her West about.

Of course there was difficult work to do,
But that didn't phase our Impetuous two.
Sanding and filling were most of the task,
But in woodwork they found joy, even built their own mast!

Having a boat they'd rebuilt gave them confidence and style,
They had pride in her lines and basked for a while...
In frequent admiration over what they had done,
Though lining up to do all that work there'd been none.

From there to here, from here to there;
Wonderful things could be found everywhere.
Texas to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala;
Always in time, they found a safe harbour.

Working betwixt their adventures was sure…
To make them appreciate their life all the more.
They found that hard work was what could be said,
To bring about the ‘luck’ in the life that they led.

Cuba was a joy that could not be overstated,
Though seasickness all the way there; Ruth hated.
Panama beckoned; perfect islands, wondrous art.
Through the canal they traversed; frugally every part.

Late in the season, the cruisers' boat party was downhearted,
Stocked to the gunwales a few days later they departed.
The Galapagos, of course, to visit would have been nice,
‘Expensive', ‘uncomfortable', ‘over regulated’ came the advice.

So five long weeks at sea they toiled,
Two slow, three fast, faster still the seas boiled.
There many young sailors, some with startling boat failures;
Adventurous new friends, they found in the Marquesas.

Jacques Brel; Gauguin; Herman Melville found a home,
On these glorious rich islands, which truly stand alone.
Among waterfalls and mountains where dreams are fulfilled,
Pamplemousse; mangoes; breadfruit; chillies all found in the wild.

The Tuamotus and Societies could never disappoint;
Iconic and exotic, their excitement was joint.
Through the Cooks on to Tonga where whales could be seen,
They made many firm friends at that party for Halloween.

The land of the long white cloud rose out of the grey,
After a terrific New Year's party they decided to go play….
Down the bottom where only the most Impetuous go,
they found out just why when it started to snow.

Into Milford they bouldered the wind on their tail,
All computers were damaged, but they'd weathered the gale.
All around them the mountains rose out of the gloom;
They thanked their lucky stars they were graced by the moon.

The Fiords are all beautiful and thrilling in their way,
Ample fish when they ran low on food saved the day.
The weather was wild with no folks to be found,
But the scenery; untamed nature, could not fail to astound.

Foveaux straits dolphins were worried and so were they all,
When the wind was so strong, Impetuous started to stall.
In the lee of Stewart island she could heave-to in peace,
How they wished they'd found time to sew in that fourth reef.

Over the years they had sailed many atolls and isles,
And always were met with genuine smiles.
They learned much about both the lands and the sea,
And started to think that they'd like to be three.

Money had to be found to fund all of their plans,
So Impetuous; left again lonely, in far away lands.
Ruth nursed; Duncan taught, so back they could go...
With a bump in the tum; so happy they did know...

Lovely Ravi arrived in beautiful Fiji,
As mangoes dripped from the trees bright and leafy.
They were sad to move on from all the friends they had found,
But truly they loved to sail all around.

His first Christmas was spent at sea bold and breezy,
Ravi never seemed fazed as he chewed his first lychee.
The timing was perfect as round other boats they did weave.
Arriving in Sydney amongst the rockets; New Year's Eve.

They sailed on around Tasmania, to again feel the cold;
People were friendly, and there were great mountains to behold.
Then they sailed again north up the land of down under,
When the seas rose up, poor Ravi would chunder.

On and on they traversed along the Barrier Reef Great;
The Louisiades had to be postponed; they were late.
Across the Arafura sea, and into Indonesia...
With still many miles to go before the delights of Malaysia.

But now our family are having a difficult time;
The sun in Indonesia refuses to shine.
The winds are against us and the currents inclement.
Pip the engine is protesting with new problems fervent.

Delay after delay has put them at odds with the weather,
To be this far into the North West monsoon is not clever.
But sailing is what these sailors do,
Otherwise they wouldn't be Impetuous Too.

Whilst sailing onwards, we've kept a secret,
With New Year's day, we thought we might leak it...
Before too long there's going to be more;
Before too long they will be the Impetuous four.

Monday, December 11, 2017

'Ere there be dragons...

We had an unexpectedly nice time in Dili with its friendly harbormaster and lovely foods and then stopped in along the coast at Oe-cusse. Whilst looking this area up, we stumbled upon a guardian article about their political and economic situation titled 'Timor-leste's big spending: a brave way to tackle economic crisis or just reckless?' Which really helped us understand what we then found there.

Oe-cusse is part of East Timor but in a separate enclave further west along the North coast of the long wriggly Timor island. This place really stands alone under the surrounding mountains and has a very strange air about it. Wandering around, it appeared mostly deserted. We couldn't find a veggie stall or anyone to chat to; but as the tumble weed blew, after it scuttled a uniformed worker diligently trying to sweep it up.

The busiest scene we found. A construction worker handing out raw meat from his handlebars at one of the many government investment sites. Out of shot is the big billboard saying what it cost and the security guard looking on. As you can see the streets were overbuilt and well maintained; quite different from neighbouring areas especially Dili. The orange people are the ever lurking ninja Street sweepers.

The cafe bar on the beach appeared frequented only by a few Europeans sipping their espresso with their heads deep in paperwork. They hardly raised a smile when Ravi went to town removing and replacing rocks from the fountain, creating quite the mud bath.

The less said about Kupang, our next stop on Western Timor the better. We were continuously hounded by touts with their 'hey mister' wanting to arrange everything for us: Fuel, water, taxi, clearance, drugs, women... By far the best policy was to give them all a wide berth and arrange things ourselves. We have since heard many stories of rip offs and bad experiences so our instincts served us well. Some form of transport was unavoidable since the offices we must visit were a long way. Taxis were cheaper as we walked away from the Anchorage and bartering was a must.

After long and tedious complications we managed to come out with not only the visa we wanted but it extended too. Customs, quarantine and the harbormaster were all easily done without interference from the agents who were unpopular with the officials we spoke with. They are trying to reduce corruption but it suits the touts and agents to encourage it so that visitors will feel that they need their services to negotiate their way through. So at the end of a day and a half of beaurocracy we were the happy holders of clearance and three passports stamped with 60 days worth of visa.

Duncan did many water and fuel runs both of which were much cheaper going in person to the vendor rather than through the offers of the touts. We caught a 'bemo' (minivan transport) to the mall, stocked up and let Ravi play in the ball pool as a reward for his patience at being dragged around all those offices then happily we could leave Kupang behind.

Kupang definitely looks better from the boat where you can't make out the heaps of rubbish, traffic and chaos...

Flat calm again we had to motor the whole way to Flores then were able to sail on to Rinca our first Komodo national park island. There, it wasn't long before we saw not only wild boars but the famous Komodo dragons prowling amongst the plastic. This one was about 2m but they can grow to three metres and 70kg. We saw at least two if not three different ones whilst at this beach and not again in the rest of our time within the national park.

The plastic on the beach, local boats buzzing around and unusually cold water conspired to make us disinclined to dive where our guide book said was good. I wish we'd been braver but we thought there would be many more opportunities. Of course we can only dive one at a time these days so our already conservative adventuring has gotten even more cautious. There are so many considerations when diving without a local guide; currents, depth, other boats, getting to and from the dive site without an outboard...

Our next stop was an enormous bay/inlet area with many little coves and long mangroved cut throughs called Lehok Ginggo
where we had a lovely time. We explored by kayak and saw lots of unusual birds and monkeys. Ravi found his ideal beach; accessed through a cave usually by kayak it was shaded most of the day and had beautiful sand and modest waves.

We then met up with friends we'd last seen in Fiji. Two boats, a trimaran with a kiwi and Dutch couple and the other a family from Belgium, Scotland and London. These guys on the catamaran Rehua (link to their blog) are still with us now and going the same way. Ravi loves having two big boys to play with, the space to scamper about and what we'd never realised; a lovely shady space to swim in the sea under Rehua's belly. We think they're fun too!

Pink beach, Komodo

Makassar reef, Komodo, too deep to anchor and possibly prohibited anyway so we drifted whilst snorkeling one at a time. (Photos by Rehua)

Gili Air, Lombok has no motorised traffic so was a great place to introduce Ravi to the joys of cycling. The Rehua crew hired some very cheaply too so we regretted putting ours through the wear and tear of the salty sand loose paths. The island is a popular backpackers haunt so our cycle ride inevitably turned into a pub crawl; half the gang preferring the cycling and half more focused on the the next establishment.

From Gili Air, we had a safe distance view of the volcano rumblings of Mount Agung on Bali. With an eruption forecast as imminent we thought we'd edge forward after checking we'd always be just out of the evacuation zone. Nothing came of it as it happens so we carried on unscathed.

Mount Agung, Bali from the Lombok strait with a fisherman from Gili Air in the foreground.

So on we've been sailing together, through the Komodo islands, along the top of Sumbawa, Lombok and on to Bali. We've been having much more difficult weather than expected, more about which in the next blog.

Sailing with Rehua between anchorages in Bali we had a rare nice easy trip and they were able to snap some photos of us in full sail with our big Genoa out for the expected light winds. We were going from Lovina to Teluk (bay) Banyuwedang, a lovely enclosed bay on the north west tip of Bali to avoid some more bad weather that was on its way.

Nappies flying and getting the odd salty splash, Ravi was inside having a doze.

Ravi is turning into the inevitable water baby he was always bound to be. This was a resort pool you could use if you bought a few beers.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore...

We'd got complacent after renewing our Australia visa and temporarily forgotten that time and tide wait for no-one. We found ourselves in Cairns with the realisation that there wasn't space in the season to do all we'd hoped to. Our visa for Papau New Guinea had arrived but there simply was not enough time to go to the reputedly glorious Louisiade archipelago. Yet another thing to go on the 'next time around' list.

What's the rush? Well for one thing it's cyclone season in this part of the world from December. For another, the South East trade winds die off and once further North turn into a North West monsoon making our progress more difficult as we head towards the Malacca straits and Malaysia beyond.

So better late than never we are now rushing along. the barrier reef blurred as we sailed along inside it day and night. We stopped a few times for a snorkel and then for a few days at Lizard island where there were a couple of hills to stretch our legs and a marine research station to look around. Much of the outer reef had suffered bleaching and cyclone damage in that area so though the snorkeling on Lizard island was interesting with the biggest giant clams we've ever seen, we had perhaps already seen better around the Whitsunday islands and further South. We did miss some famous dive sites so can't comment on the whole reefs health but what we saw was nothing like what I (Ruth) remember when I visited in 2002.

We aren't going to win any awards for our underwater photography yet, but we've all got to start somewhere!

It was here at the top of Lizard island that captain cook gazed out to sea attempting to find a way back out through the maze of reefs. Having already stove in and repaired his ship he wanted to be free on the open sea again. We followed the now well trodden path for nothing more than some photos and exercise as the day was too hazy to be able to discern much of the outer reef.

Ravi sleeping as he so often does in the carrier both out on walks or around town.

Rounding Cape York and in to Thursday island was thankfully benign since we'd gone to the trouble to get the tides with us. Thursday and Horn islands were hot and blustery with a rather apocalyptic feel where bush fires were raging. Ravi had his inoculations and we sorted our paperwork to clear out and notify Indonesia we were on our way.

Since leaving Australia Ravi's route map has developed a few extra kinks. The passage started out with three days of fair trade winds but then all traces died out. For the next three days we drifted and tacked against all kinds of light variable winds before finally giving in and changing our plans. It was too far to be able to motor to our planned destination of Kupang so we decided to aim for Saumlaki on the nearer island of Yamdena. We motored the whole way there as the only wind that came was the lightest of North Westerlies (less than 5kn) so it was a good decision.

Some cruising friends gave us nylon for the job so now our flags are looking much more professional. Indonesian flag.

Saumlaki is a very different place. The entrance was a delight of traditional boats and big convoluted fishing trap/ stations. Even before we anchored we'd caused a stir with people in dugouts usually with outboards buzzing around the boat taking photos of us and shouting out. This continued around town where Ravi was particularly popular. Whole families would stop their scooter jump off and rush over to take 'selfies' with us and especially if they could hold him. He got pinched from every direction and whisked away whenever they could, so after a bit we needed to find a quiet spot to give him a break!

Saumlaki port with a Dutch influenced Christian Church behind in the early morning. This was the pretty part, the town itself was a hot, busy cocophony of rubbish, dust and scooters.

At the port captain's we found out eventually that all the officials we were waiting for had gone to visit an island and wouldn't be back until late afternoon. 'No problem, tomorrow'. But we knew that the officials wouldn't like us just wandering about without clearing in so we found a quiet spot in a hotel and let Ravi have a sleep. We had lunch at a street stall where Ravi, revitalised, enjoyed his attention and his satay mixed rice and veg. Lots of photos were taken to squeels of delight from the scarved ladies.

Then we endeavoured to find the immigration office which turned out to be the guys house who by then had returned from the island jaunt.

Here's where we found our problem. There are three visa options in Indonesia. A free 30 day non renewable one available to citizens of most countries, a visa on arrival which you pay for which also gives 30 days but is extendable once only - the one we wanted, and a cultural visa which must be applied for out of the country with an Indonesian citizen 'sponsor' who guarantees your good will and good character which is valid for 30 or 60 days but then extendable monthly up to 180 days.

However we had not realised that this middle visa is only available in seaports which are near international airports. Saumlaki's airport is domestic only and so though it is clearly advertised as one of the 19 available inward and outbound clearance ports of Indonesia's 16,000 islands, it is not possible to get this particular  visa there (nor is it at the next nearest one Tual).

So we were scuppered. There's no way we could get through the whole of Indonesia within 30 days. It would be around 2,500 miles with wind and current against us for the last 800 and probably quite light winds all the time. Even if we checked out wherever we got to after 30 days, there was a high likelihood we would need to stop for water and fuel on our route onwards.

There was no budging the immigration guy though, he just couldn't give us the visa we wanted. Our only option was to take the free 30 days and accept that we had to be out after that. After a bit of deliberation we decided to get the issue sorted now whilst we had options of other countries to visit with Indonesian embassies. Darwin, Australia or Dili, East Timor. One was much more on the way than the other and according to a little online research should be perfectly possible.

We looked around a bit over the weekend, bought some water and fuel then cleared out on the Monday. Saumlaki was a difficult town to really like. The people were friendly and fun but the heat, poverty, dirt and noise were an assault on the senses. We found it particularly galling whilst nosying about to see tiny empty hovels with families living under incomplete rooves and behind broken walls whilst the cities' many churches towered above them opulent, air-conditioned; pristine.

The people living there not only have to buy drinking water but also have to buy in water which is unfit for drinking from tankers in order to wash with; that's those who have tanks. Most don't. Most have no access to hygeine nor space to breath with their tiny spaces squashed in. We see many different kinds of poverty on our travels but poverty of space with no access to drinking water is really basic need. For sale along the market street the fruit and veg supply was meagre. Onions were shipped from Java and so cost four times the price of those in Australia. We bought some eggs but they were almost all off. In the shops were mostly soap and biscuits. Life here for these people really is a daily struggle.

So on we needed to go to Dili, Timor Leste which is where we are now. We managed to sail much of the way here though the winds were often light we only motored when we dropped below 1.5 to 2kn. Mostly in the early hours of the morning when there might not be a breath. We had some variable northerly wind as we sailed along Timor Leste in the early hours of Friday, so it was nice to have peace and quiet to savour the sounds of the invisible whales nearby.

Ravi greeting the sunrise and another new place

Christo Rei overlooks Dili, Portuguese influences abound though Timor is certainly independent now and only the elite and older educated Timorese speak the language. The local tongue is a mixed dialect of indigenous language with some Portuguese words dropped in for words that were missing. Most can also speak the main Indonesian Bahasa language.

Harbour entrance mark at Dili with an early morning fisherman

Clearing in here was easy in comparison to Indonesia though we did have to pay $30 each for a visa though it was advertised as free for Europeans: UK and a few other European countries were not included.

The flag of Timor-Leste we didn't worry about hemming it since we'll be here less than a week.

We still haven't quite decided which visa for Indonesia to get here since there are costs and complications with each and we need to rush on in any case. We shall see what the weekend brings and decide on Monday. This afternoon we are enjoying a glass of Porto with some blue cheese and cured meat courtesy of the Portuguese influences here. Tonight there is Portuguese music in a nearby bar so Ravi is having a long afternoon nap under a fan to prepare for evening revels.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ravis' World at One...

Wow, Today Ravi turned one. A whole year old. He is currently fast asleep after a fun and busy day as I write this blog at almost 10 o'clock at night. Its been a year of learning for us all, as all new parents know. Last night at this time he was still scuttling around our feet laughing hysterically. The most recent lesson being 'don't give your soon to be one year old the cake mix bowl to lick too close to bed time.

Chocolate brownies the cake in question. Just over a year ago we sailed past and then later briefly met the Del Viento family. Ruth was on the verge of giving birth. Before they left the anchorage they kindly made us some chocolate brownies. They left them in the cockpit of Impetuous as we were out at the time. Infact we were out at the hospital embarking on what turned out to be the quite lengthy process of having a baby. So when I got back to the boat it was dark. Indeed it was still dark when I left the following morning.

I'm not entirely sure how long they had been there when I finally discovered them. They had clearly been through a few melt cycles but they were gooey, crunchy and delicious and it was quite an effort for me to save some to take in for Ruth; for whom i'm sure they were really intended, still languishing, knackered in hospital trying to persuade the doctors and nurses that they were ready to come home. So when it came to making some sort of cakey thing to celebrate Ravi turning one the chocolate brownie came to mind.

We are currently in Cairns having just spent the last few days stocking up and organising before we head up towards the remote Thursday island on the North East tip of Australia. Of course as well as provision we've been keeping an eye out for a suitable one year old present. Suitable for a sailor.

We stumbled on an environmentally conscious toy shop in Cairns thinking a little wooden trinket or nice little book may be the thing. There we were blown away by all the beautiful wooden toys, books, recycled plastic toys but one thing after a perusal leapt out. 'Hugg a Planet'. We turned it over marvelling at the detail particularly of obscure islands; some we've been to, most we'd like to one day and the lovely huggable squishiness of it. In our standard style we resolved it was very lovely but a bit pricy, perhaps we'll have a bash at making one ourselves and paid for the little dancing dinosaur we'd chosen.

On our way about town we discussed how we'd never manage the level of detail and accuracy on the globe and it would take ages... hey what about the money for Ravis birthday your parents sent. They'd love us to splash out on something nice for him, so back we went and here it is. Ravi's globe.

Last night after we'd all finally gone to bed, Ruth sewed on his route thus far; from Fiji, to New Caladonia and the east coast of Austraila and Tasmania. We will keep updating it as we sail from country to country. Lets face it, it's quicker and more fun than a traditional log. Our next stop will be Indonesia so there will be a little more sewing on passage as well as our new courtesy flag needed. 

Birthday splashes whilst his parents felt apprehensive about crocodiles...

Wrapping paper Impetuous style...