Timor, Our first Taste of Asia…

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Approaching the south-western tip of the island of Timor, the wind was blowing at a steady 25 knots, which was not ideal for us. The small channel which separates Timor from the island of Semau was full of fishing boats, which made passing through at night much more complicated. We tried to hold our position about 20 miles out, but kept drifting off at around 3 knots. I decided to get a couple of hours sleep, and then with the situation still uncomfortable, unfurled a bit of sail and headed for the strait. The night was pitch black, and when we saw the tip of Timor whilst still sailing close-hauled, Marin and I saw a more or less continuous barrage of fishing boats that were working under lights. This depressing situation put pressure on the crew of Jangada, as we didn’t know what kind of set up these boats were working with and the strait was only a few short miles wide. With my skipper’s hat on, thinking of all the potential crises that could arise, I imagined us having to make tricky, last minute manœuvres, nets getting caught in our skegs and propellers, and some angry Indonesian fishermen shouting at us in the night…

The only reassuring thing was that the electronic charts seemed to be reliable. As a precaution, we lowered the mainsail, unfurling the solent halfway and started both engines so that we would be able to react immediately. For once, we had all our lights on, as I felt that with their powerful « lamparo » spotlights, the fishermen probably wouldn’t see anything beyond a small zone around them.  As is usually the case, the eyes and the brain soon get a handle on the situation, and things started to move forward. We put our hand held spotlight on charge and switched it on, up on the bridge, and between my son and I, we tried to avoid a collision, navigating past each boat. I love experiencing this type of moment with my son, as it really helps to bond us. This is the unbreakable bond that I’d hoped to forge with my children on this journey…  We came through this test pretty much unscathed, and the electronic chart showed our route heading off north. I had quaffed several hot soups and strong coffees during the ordeal, to keep my senses sharp despite the late hour. Aromas from the land wafted across the sea. It was 3 or 4 hours before we left most of the craft behind us. Approaching the northern exit of the strait, the lights of Kupang were like a white halo, which helped to guide us. We slalomed around a few cargo ships at anchor, sailed past other commercial boats that were poorly lit and had spluttering engines, before arriving in a zone where we could potentially anchor until daylight. I spotted a military launch at anchor and sailed towards it to moor up. I was thinking of all the potential dangers that Asia could offer…  The stench from the town with its very particular bouquets attacked our nostrils. A motor pirogue flashed right by us at full speed in the dark. It was 3am! We had left Port Moresby 9 days ...

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