Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue


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Ambon - Head banging music and Carnivale


Our passage from Banda to Ambon was mostly uneventful with good winds and slight seas - although we did have cause to reconsider the benefits of travelling in such close proximity to so many other rally yachts.


It was during the night and involved a yacht we have had cause to mention before on this website. We had been tracking them for some time as they approached us closing from behind and it was obvious that they were on a collision course. We assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that as per yachting rules the overtaking yacht would keep clear. Perhaps they have different rules in the States?? We started to worry when a quick shine of the torch reflected back off their white hull. They were less than 50m away in the middle of an ocean. Quickly on the radio....
yacht name deleted, what are your intentions as the overtaking yacht?’
‘Well…..I can’t do anything, I’m by the lee ( meaning the wind was already close to being on the wrong side of his sails ).’

Hmmm....he doesn't want to jibe or come onto the wind and pass behind us. So the alternative is to hit us I suppose and he just kept coming ?

Unable to believe his nerve – but nevertheless concerned for the safety of our ship and preferring to take the initiative, we quickly started both engines and pulled clear, suggesting that they may wish to now pass behind us and head off in search of another victim! It takes all types.


The City of Ambon pulled out all stops in their efforts to welcome the ‘Sail Indonesia’ boats. By now the fleet of  rally boats had reduced from 135 to 60 – with the missing boats heading west instead of following the rally’s agenda.( It is an extra 700nm trip up to Sulawesi and back, but that is what we signed up for. ) The large wharf had been cleared of all fishing and military vessels, they were anchored just off the jetty in the bay and this allowed enough room for all the yachts to moor stern to.  
  We found a ‘hole’ and dropped anchor before backing in and throwing our stern lines to the many waiting officials eager to assist.  
The Welcome Ceremony began soon after, with speeches, dancing and singing – plus a free BBQ lunch featuring several species of whole fish ( each ), slabs of squid plus the largest king prawns we had ever seen – all accompanied by rice and noodle dishes.  

  Unfortunately for us we happened to be moored adjacent to the area set up as a restaurant – and the head banging music continued until around midnight each night. This, coupled with the 45 minutes of ‘wailing’ as the mosque called the faithful to prayer at 5 am, made sleep difficult during our stay. However, we were better off than 'Southern Mist II' who had been placed beside the 120 foot super yacht ‘Obsession’ (renamed ‘Obscene’ by the rally participants due to the unseaman-like behavior of the French crew) whose generator spewed out fumes 24 X 7 directly into their cockpit! ( Their boat on the left in the picture is a 40 footer, but looks like a toy !! )


Ambon day two -  and in company with our friends from ‘Two Up’ and ‘Southern Mist ’ we tackled the local Bemos. As we stood on the side of the main road, a continual stream of lime green transit –type vans that had seen better days zoomed past us. There are few private cars in Ambon and no taxis at all – so our only option was to hail a bemo. We kept our eyes peeled for an empty one marked ‘Tantui’ (our suburb ) and soon found ourselves hunched over in the back of an airless van with hard wooden benches down each side.




Being a one way street, traffic headed out of town and then did a loop back to the centre of the city via an inland route. At some point the road became 2-way – however the Bemo drivers ignored this and formed three lanes across the entire road as the traffic increased and slowed to a crawl. After about 20 minutes, we were finally deposited near the ‘Plaza’ and paid our 2,000 rupiah (25c) a head as we tumbled out onto the grimy footpath.



Whatever vision the name ‘Plaza’ conjuours up in your mind – dispel them now! Ambon’s version of a Plaza is a 3 story building with hundreds of tiny market stalls and VERY loud thumping music. However we did find a KFC on the top floor and despite hating ourselves for going in we couldn’t resist the thought of air conditioning and chocolate sundaes! Feeling brave after such decadence, Sue found a hairdressers – a tiny shop with one basin and two eager young girls keen to catch some business. Despite the risk – since all communication was via sign language – the haircut proved to be pretty good and at $4 (including a 15 minute head massage) it was a real bargain.


By the time we had found the right bemo to transport us back to the wharf the newly washed and coiffured  hairdo lay sweatily plastered  amidst beads of perspiration. It is wet season in Ambon and the humidity is obscenely high – but at least we all looked in the same dripping condition as we exited the bemo and followed the sign advertising ‘Bloddy cold Beer’!

It turned out to be excellent, well chilled Bintang ! ( The local brew )



That night it was pizza aboard ‘Mandolin Wind’, broken up into two sessions as the boys went off to a ‘Technical and Race’ briefing at 7pm. The girls – well into their second bottle of champers by this time – chose to remain on board to discuss deep and meaningful dialogue – including ‘the meaning of life’, the highs and lows of cruising, and the shortcomings of men in general! 



Whilst finishing off the remains of the homemade pizza, Eric from 'Morning Star VII' recounted his tale of how he came to have in his possession 3 million rupiah worth of 1,000 rupiah notes.  Having used the ATM for his initial withdrawal he was not happy about being given only six of 500,000 rupiah notes. To fix the problem he entered the bank and via sign language and showing them a 1000 rupiah note intimated that he would like something smaller.  After a short wait the teller returned with what he described as ‘bricks of money’. They had done their best to accommodate his wishes and changed his 3 million into 1,000 rupiah notes! Not knowing how to react he sheepishly thanked them carried off his rather large shopping bag stuffed with 3000 notes – feeling anything but a millionaire! ( 1000 rupiah is about 12 cents ! )



Below: Pete and Donna - The crew from 'Two Up'

  Above: Yvonne (left) and Eric (Right) from 'Morning Star VII' with Pete (middle) from 'Two Up'


This tale was followed by an equally funny one – this time relating to a ‘guide’ who had attached himself to a group of yachties as a means of ‘practicing his english’. ( They often do this and are quite genuine ) He was a polite and well spoken student and all was going well until the return journey in the bemo when the guide looked at one of the ladies in the group and said, "You’re a f*cking legend" ! Not sure whether to laugh or look shocked, she asked him where he had learnt that term. "From other rally boats last year" he proudly explained. "That's what they call me. Means very good friend, err doesn't it ?" – this last with a thumbs up symbol. He was devistated when they explained what he had said and perhaps it was a little too "colloquial" to use in polite company. Naturally that saying has now become part of the rally jargon and is used to indicate a ‘not too smart’ action by a member of the crew! - with laughs all around.


This next day was Carnival Day. Not knowing what this meant – and it being very hot and humid – there were very few takers lining up to take the buses that were provided by the organizers. We opted instead to spend a few hours in the ‘bloddy cold beer’ restaurant where a large dish of very tasty Nasi Goring cost only $2. However, we had not reckoned on Jenny, the tour guide provided by the Ambon Tourist Authority. She found our hiding place and cajoled us into coming along on the last bus. Since we needed to get into town and find an internet café anyway, we decided we may as well take advantage of the ‘police escorted’ bus and then make ourselves scarce at the first opportunity.




So much for that plan! There were only 10 of us on this particular bus and when we were dropped off at a specially set up VIP viewing platform on the side of the road – resplendent with a decorated shade cover and chairs – we knew we were cornered. Other buses full of yachties had gone to other similar platforms along the route.

  We were the guests of honour and our vantage point was at the start of the parade. As each float came by, each representing a province of the Maluka District, the marchers stopped, faced us, and performed a traditional song or dance just for us.
We felt like royalty – and more than a little embarrassed by the fact that only 10 of us had bothered to front for this bus. So we did our best to cheer and clap and to generally try and make up for the lack of audience members.  


Later, after the last float had passed us by, we asked Jenny if we could skip the police escort back and go to an internet café. She happily organized some cyclos for us and an English speaking helper to make sure we were all right. Without her help we would never have found the ‘cyber café’.


Left: Jenny, our Ambon tourist authority guide

Hopeful of being able to upload our website pages for the first time since entering Indonesia (this was the first place that had any form of internet access at all) we were greatly disappointed when the connection was so slow that all attempts timed out. Even our gmail was inaccessible – so we eventually gave up and headed home.  

  August 7th was "race day". Well, a ceremonial race, anyway. All the officials lined up on a large military boat and when the race gun sounded we were there with our sails up and our flags flying. The ‘race’ was to Bitung at the top of Sulewasi and would require two overnighters.
Above: at the start of the 'race'   Below: Note the Obscene size of 'Obsession'!
The 'race' was scheduled from Ambon to Bitung via Ternate. However, based on the fact that a stop at Ternate would require a beat to windward, it was decided to bypass Ternate and go directly to Bitung. Unfortunately for the good folk of Ternate, nobody from the Indonesian side bothered to inform them of this change of plan. We found out later that the one boat that did make the stopover (the beforementioned 'Obsession' - funny no-one told them of the change of plan!) and was thoroughly embarrassed by the welcome they received and the amount of work that had been put into receiving the expected 50 yachts. Ahhh - typical Indonesian organisation!   
We had no intention of racing (our insurance specifically forbids it anyway) and broke up the passage with two stopovers at secluded island groups along the way. It was bliss to be out in the wind and to feel the refreshingly cool air after the stifling humidity of the wharf - plus we enjoyed the silence after having to try and sleep through the head-banging music. The other advantage of breaking up the trip was that we would cross the equator during daylight and naturally we wanted to celebrate this event in style!


So at 4:00pm on August 9th – after a trip of 4,770 nautical miles in the southern hemisphere -we had finally crossed the equator.

On board 'Mandolin Wind' it was only Sue who was a "shellback" ( one who hadn't crossed the equator by water before ) as Martin had already crossed over during his passage out from England aboard the ‘Oriana’ when he was a child.  

In company with ‘Southern Mist ’ we hove to at 00 degrees 00 minutes latitude and took photos of each boat as they performed their rituals – part of which included running around the decks covered only in flags. Luckily for you we have spared you the photographs of those particular antics!

Note the flat seas and perfect conditions, 200nm from anywhere !


Left: Chris as figure head on Southern Mist


We also had a nip of Cointreau and ice , plus one for Neptune that dutifully went over the side ( ok, a very small one ! ) - but preferred to save the Bollinger until we had arrived at our destination ( yes Hank it is the real stuff !! ) - but you'll have to wait until the next instalment to hear about that performance!

Whoo Hoo... The Northern Hemishere !!!