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Spice Islands of Indonesia

August 6, 2015

Hello from Banda Island in western Indonesia (lat 04 31.2S long 129deg 53.5E). We had a very pleasant sail from Horn Island, Australia, to Debut, Indonesia, covering the 640nm across the Arafura Sea in 4 days 5 hours. It was pretty exciting dodging the hundreds of fishing boats that work this area, often anchoring in the shallow sea. The sky was lite at night by dozens of squid fishermen that use bright lights to attract the squid. We picked up 50 feet of fishing net on our rudder one night and had to cut it off while sailing. It’s interesting to note that in the 1,100nm from Cairns to Debut we never saw a depth greater than 200 feet until we were 20 miles from Indonesia.

On our arrival in Debut we were shown to the anchorage by a man in a brightly flagged “weed-wacker” boat powered by a small gasoline engine with a fixed shaft and propeller that pass down the outside of the boat. This seems to be the preferred propulsion for small boats.

We were an early arrival in Debut and the first to be visited by Emigration and Health. Debut is not an official port of entry but the rally had special permission to clear in here. Unfortunately the officials were not clear on what to do and we still hadn’t received all of our paper work a week later when we left; better to ask for forgiveness that permission!

Debut was truly a cultural change for us. Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world and there are mosques everywhere competing for the loudest payer call, and there are five calls a day. The people are wonderful, especially the children, and the local towns welcomed us with feasts, dances, and a parade. The ministry of tourism spent considerable effort to impress us so that we will spread the word that the Kei Islands are worth visiting. But be prepared to rough it if you don’t have a boat because there are no resorts. In fact, the only non-Indonesians we saw were yachties.

We left Debut and sailed to some nearby islands to relax and get some boat work done. Our water maker is acting up and needs to be cajoled into operation until a new pump arrives. We spent one night at the beautiful little islet group of Pulau-Pulau Kai which isn’t mentioned in any of the cruising guides. We felt a little like explorers.

Our overnight sail to Banda Island couldn’t have been better with gentle winds from behind and a full moon. We anchored at the base of the volcano across the bay from the town with picturesque views in all directions.

The Banda Islands are the original Spice Islands ruthlessly controlled by the Dutch to monopolize the spice trade during the 1600’s. This was the only place on earth where nutmeg could be found until saplings were smuggled out by the British. The islands also provided clove, mace, cinnamon, and almonds. We took a tour of the plantations and learned how these once priceless spices are harvested and cured.

This small island group has the remains of four Dutch forts and the former Dutch presence is further evidenced by the colonial architecture of wonderfully restored buildings. The market is a series of narrow alley ways with small shops selling a strange assortment of wares. The houses are much nicer than we’ve seen in the South Pacific and are often adorned with colorful tiles and bright paints.

It has been interesting as we loosely travel with 50 other boats. We continue to make new friends and enjoy old ones and every night is spent in gatherings swapping stories, and drinking… With this many boats there is always some drama as boats drag their anchors, engines stop working, boats run aground, etc. But it is nice to watch as the fleet is mobilized to help whoever is in need. It is becoming a very close community.

Fishing net had to be cut away from our rudder

Fishing net had to be cut away from our rudder

Wahoo for dinner

Wahoo for dinner

Anchored fishing boats in the Arafura Sea

Anchored fishing boats in the Arafura Sea

Another peaceful night at sea

Another peaceful night at sea

Our greeter in Debut showed us to the anchorage; notice the weed-wacker outboard.

Our greeter in Debut showed us to the anchorage; notice the weed-wacker outboard.

Emigration and health officials showed up at dusk in Debut

Emigration and health officials showed up at dusk in Debut

A ferry fully loaded

A ferry fully loaded

View from Persephone of a mosque and very wide fishing boat in Debut

View from Persephone of a mosque and very wide fishing boat in Debut

Flags in Debut to honor our arrival

Flags in Debut to honor our arrival

Locals come out to see the yachts

Locals come out to see the yachts

The kids are always the most friendly

The kids are always the most friendly

Beautiful beach outside Debut

Beautiful beach outside Debut

Large open market in Tual near Debut

Large open market in Tual near Debut

Fish market in Tual

Fish market in Tual

Caves outside Debut

Caves outside Debut

An armada of dinghies help a disabled boat

An armada of dinghies help a disabled boat

Bridge to the island by the Debut anchorage

Bridge to the island by the Debut anchorage

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Yachties congregate in the anchorage before heading into the Debut festivities

Yachties congregate in the anchorage before heading into the Debut festivities

Dancers in Debut

Dancers in Debut

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A very large mud crab

A very large mud crab

Enjoying an afternoon at the spring fed swimming hole near Debut

Enjoying an afternoon at the spring fed swimming hole near Debut

The fleet of 50 boats in Debut anchorage

The fleet of 50 boats in Debut anchorage

3 mile parade in Langgar

3 mile parade in Langgar

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Fisherman deploying a long line of fish traps that are very hard to see!

Fisherman deploying a long line of fish traps that are very hard to see!

Secluded Pulau-Pulau Kai

Secluded Pulau-Pulau Kai

Moon-rise over Pulau-Pulau Kai

Moon-rise over Pulau-Pulau Kai

Some yachts tied to the sea wall in from of the town of Neira, Banda

Some yachts tied to the sea wall in from of the town of Neira, Banda. We are anchored across the bay at the base of the volcano.

Market stalls in Neira

Market stalls in Neira

Plantation owners home

Plantation owners home

Nutmeg drying in the sun

Nutmeg drying in the sun

Water is being rationed from a well during a severe drought

Water is being rationed from a well during a severe drought

Clove

Clove

Cinnamon is pealed from a tree

Cinnamon is pealed from a tree

Cloves drying in the sun

Cloves drying in the sun

Fish drying in the sun

Fish drying in the sun

Volcano at Banda

Volcano at Banda

Fancy one-lunger inboard diesel boats

Fancy one-lunger inboard diesel boats

Dutch fort behind Neira, Banda

Dutch fort behind Neira, Banda

Cilu Bintang Estate in Neira where we ate dinner

Cilu Bintang Estate in Neira where we ate dinner

We are a little unsure where we are going next. We don’t plan to stop at every rally destination and hope to continue to find little island jewels that no one else knows about. We will post again when we get Internet.

From → Travel

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