Countdown to Indonesia

When Corroboree arrived in Australia in May 2019, Eric and I expected to spend one marvelous year in the Land Down Under then glide on to Indonesia. Covid stretched that to three years, and if we had to be stranded somewhere during the pandemic, we couldn’t have picked a better place than Oz. But with international borders mostly reopened, we can now resume, and hopefully complete, our voyage. Next stop: Indonesia. What will it take to get us there?

First, paperwork, which Eric has been tackling since January. When we sailed on Duprass 45 years ago, there was so little paperwork it was laughable. You cruised into the foreign port of your choice, hoisted your yellow Q flag to alert the authorities of your arrival, and if no one showed up to check you in, you trekked to the local police station and introduced yourself. The form was usually a single page and rarely was there a fee. No more. Our paperwork to enter Indonesia consists of a 6-page application detailing every anticipated stop in the country. It also requires copies of our passports, boat registration, crew list, vaccination certificates, extra passport photos and a list of every prescription drug and OTC medication on board, including the expiration dates and quantities right down to the last cough drop.

These documents must be signed and stamped with our boat seal. None of the countries we’ve previously visited have required a seal, which can be as simple as the vessel’s name on a rubber stamp. But Corroboree‘s original owners were gifted with a beautiful seal, and we are finally putting it to use. It is also mandatory to hire an Indonesian agent to vet and submit our paperwork, and if all is done properly we will then be granted a visa. Our agent is English-fluent and comes recommended by other cruisers, and we can call on him for advice and referrals throughout our stay. We have just been informed, however, that our nearest port of entry has suddenly “closed” and we will have to sail far out of our way to clear in elsewhere. This is frustrating and stressful, but the situation could change again by the time we depart. We’ll need a negative PCR test before leaving, but on the positive side the onboard quarantine time for incoming cruisers to Indonesia, formerly 1-2 weeks, has been reduced to one day.

Our boat seal

Second, research, although this actually started with the Indonesia cruising guide we purchased two years ago before Covid stopped us in our tracks. Published in 2017, it is the latest edition and will serve as an overview of the country and its culture and point us to ports, anchorages, supplies, services, and things to see and do en route. For the most current information, however, we will turn to the Internet, and cruisers’ online forums. In addition, we are in contact with a handful of boats that sailed to Indonesia from Darwin last October and are happy to pass on their firsthand experiences. Thank you!

Cruising guides aren’t updated every year. Don’t count on them entirely.
The pindrops on our iNavX program mark possible anchorages. We still carry a few paper charts as backup.

Third, equipment, and during our stay in Darwin we’ve acquired some nifty new items and upgraded existing ones. Foremost among them are: 1) An electric refrigeration system, although having done without any refrigeration for the past five years, we’re not yet sure how to make the most of this. 2) A satellite phone that adds voice, text, Internet and email at sea to our communications arsenal. And to think that 45 years ago, our communications system consisted of a distress radio and a picture postcard sent to our parents every time we reached a new port. 3) A third set of reef points added to our mainsail. Though Corroboree’s original two reefs have gotten us this far, we really could have used a third reef to reduce the size of our sail even further when the wind got wild last August in the Arafura Sea. We are now better prepared for whatever winds lie ahead. 4) The addition of 100’ of chain to the 150’ on our main anchor for 250’ total. This is in expectation of the deep anchorages in Indonesia. We’ll go for the shallower anchorages when we can find them, but again, it’s best to be prepared.

Here’s hoping the wind never gets so strong we need to triple reef.

A major relief on the equipment front was identifying the gremlin causing a disconcerting noise in the engine during the biweekly maintenance runs at the marina. For cruisers, any unusual noise in your boat engine is worrisome, and a loud, disconcerting one provokes existential angst. The problem was that our noise manifested only intermittently, and of course the engine ran perfectly the first two times we had a mechanic on board. But the third time—ha! It misbehaved with aplomb, and the mechanic diagnosed the rumble as the fault of a worn cutlass bearing. This is the bearing that supports the propeller shaft where it enters the hull, and Corroboree will be hauled out at the marina slipway and outfitted with a new one in a few days. We could not have left Darwin with this problem unsolved.  

Other tasks on the departure list include provisioning, topping up the fuel, water and LPG tanks, scrubbing the dinghy, and inspecting and restocking the ditch bag. Some days it feels like we’re on top of things. Other days it feels like we’re running behind. The cyclone season, which spared us entirely, is almost over. We still need the prevailing winds to turn from the west to the steady southeast trades which generally occurs by late April. As with every new leg of a journey, there is anxiety, which we confront, discuss and endeavor to overcome by foreseeing and forestalling potential disasters. At the same time, we’re optimistic, looking forward to being on the ocean again and meeting the people of Indonesia. According to our fellow cruisers, they are warm, welcoming and eager to make friends.

I’ll write one last blog post before we leave Australia and will include a link for those who want to track our voyage. Time to get this show on the road and discover the amazing places ahead!

Komodo Island, famous for its dragons
Some say Bali isn’t the “real” Indonesia. We’ll see.