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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 30, 2010-Stepping off the Edge of the World

We've come back to the edge of the world and we are about to step off.

This time for keeps.

We're in the Mentawai Islands half way down the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Out here there are few people and nothing but wild, untouched islands and big surf and to the west of us lies only the vast ocean. There is no convoy of yachts waiting to depart with us. We are alone.

This is the edge of the world.

The time to depart for Africa is near. Just one more look at the weather forecasts and we can weigh anchor and head south to the Trade Winds.

And take a right turn.

Twenty four hundred miles to Rodriguez Island in the Southern Indian Ocean. It's the big hop.

Are we ready?

Yeah, it rained last night and we filled the water tanks. Yesterday we visited a small town out here and bought a little more diesel so those tanks are topped off too and we found some veggies and got a couple of chickens for the freezer. In Pedang the day before we finished other preparations: the gas bottles were filled, the new radio tuner was installed and is working, the alternator was rebuilt and is working, all the provisions we can fit were stored aboard. We even bought a few kilos of Sumatran coffee direct from the roaster. We are about as ready as we will ever be.

How about the crew?

Judy and I and our great crew member Pierre are healthy and optimistic and anxious to get on with it.

It's time to get going, time to take that step off the edge of the world.

We can't post links or photos from the HF Radio system we are using to post this, but you can go to wingssail-images (see link at the top of the page) and see the photos we posted from Pedang.

We'll write more later.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Sumatra

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Friday, September 24, 2010

September 25, 2010-The Jetty at Teluk Bayur

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Fishing boat at Teluk Bayur

The old wooden jetty was a wreck already but there was no other choice for a yachtie wishing to go ashore in Pedang’s Teluk Bayur since the surf on the shoreline is too huge to consider. However landing in the dingy at the Teluk Bayur jetty is a real adventure; the waves rise and fall about three feet and you have to time your leap from the dingy to or from the jetty, but you could do it if you were agile.

That was before last night when the big wave wiped out the whole jetty. It knocked the surface planks completely off the pilings and scattered them like pick-up sticks. To go ashore for our shopping trip in Pedang today we scrambled over the wreckage.

Scrambling ashore was a piece of cake compared to coming home because the local jetty workers decided to fix it while we were gone.

They were right on the job and they industriously attacked the ruined jetty with saws and new timbers but to fix it they had to dismantle the remains. By four in the afternoon there was no jetty, only the skeleton under which surged the whole Indian Ocean dashing itself on the rocks with a mighty power.

So I, being the designated driver waiting on Wings with the dingy, came in early and spoke to the jetty owner, “Sir, Madam is coming back in an hour and she can’t cross that ruined jetty. Can your guys help her?”

This is what I like about Indonesia:

He said, “No problem.” And when Judy showed up later with her bags of provisions the whole work team, about 15 guys, stopped work rigged a temporary walkway of planks for her to cross and the owner himself handed Judy to the dingy. It was still scary for her but she made it.

We have experienced nothing except the friendliest and most courteous treatment from all the Indonesians we have encountered in Sumatra. We love them.

But Pedang, which is the capital of West Sumatra, is still a difficult stop over. Aside from the adventures of the jetty the town is large and confusing. There are few stores where we can buy the provisions we need and the market is so huge even Pierre got lost. On top of that few people speak any English and our Indonesian is limited so asking is not usually productive. We have not even found Sumatra coffee beans but in truth we have managed to get most everything else.

We are here doing our last minute shopping before checking out of Indonesia for Africa, and that is something. The boat has been a problem with its minor breakdowns, and continues to be, but we cope, and we are on schedule.

So we are pretty happy.

We’ll update you soon on our actual departure date from Indonesia.

Fred & Judy (& Pierre), SV Wings, Sumatra

Click here for more images from our last stop in Sibolga

Click here for photos we took on the way to Pedang, which is across the equator

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Friday, September 17, 2010

September 16, 2010-Sailing to Sibolga v2

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sumatra Anchorage


We arrived at the outer mark at dawn and we smelled the wood smoke of the cooking fires in the soft offshore wind.

It reminded us of another morning long ago when we arrived under sail at San Carlos, Mexico, also at dawn, and when we also smelled the smoke of the cooking fires onshore. The smoke smells the same and the sky at that time of the morning looks the same also and while we could not pick out Tetras de Cabra here in Sumatra, even the spiny backbone of Sumatra Island looks similar; memories also flood back of other dawn arrivals.

We passed a solitary fisherman standing in a canoe and he looked like a clockwork stick figure as he rhythmically bent at the waist to pull his net in, hand over hand.

At 08:00 the anchor splashed down off the Sibolga, Indonesia waterfront and we looked at the town as we quietly folded sails, each of us with our own thoughts. We liked the looks of the town with a small central area of low buildings surrounded by houses built on stilts over the water and houses in the hills behind. There are several mosques visible and the whole place is surrounded by steep hills: picturesque.

It was also nice to achieve this objective: arriving at Sibolga, which is several hundred miles down the coast of Sumatra and over six hundred miles from Langkawi, Malaysia, where we started this journey, is a major milestone for us. Here we will formally check into Indonesia, do some shopping, try to get an Internet connection, and rest up from the last 12 days of our crossing from Malaysia and the trip down the coast.

The trip so far has been good. We’ve been motoring a most of the time in the calm Sumatra summer but getting some nice sailing days too. The overnight sail into Sibolga from the Islands was very good with a steady 15 knot westerly behind us most of the way. We set the kite for a while but blew the jibe and had to take it down then then decided it was too much trouble to trim it so rather than reset it we we shifted to a jib. It meant easier sailing.

There have been some stunning anchorages along the way with pristine white sand beaches and clear water teaming with fish and wildlife but we’ve had little contact with the few local inhabitants. The Islands are mostly empty of people. We did talk every day on the radio to our several surfer friends here on various boats for the world class surfing. We have seen plenty of awesome surf which we have stayed well away from.

Frequent minor breakdowns have been a daily occurrence and have been troubling. They have kept us busy and my heart really sinks with each new problem; not because I have to fix it but because it makes us wonder how things will hold up on the big crossing, but we have dealt with them all and are buying some more spares here in Indonesia for the trip. Our friend Tony told us that any day where nothing has failed by noon is a good day and we do expect more of the “unscheduled maintenance”.

But we’re here, we can do some shopping, and it is happy ship aboard Wings. Judy and I are relaxed and doing well, Pierre has turned out to be a great crew member and we are all looking forward to the cooler tradewind days ahead;

Sumatra is hot.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Sumatra

Click here for more photos from Sumatra

Click here to see a few of the Sibolga Residents

Click here to see the log book pages of our sailing trips in September 2010

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Sumatra

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Monday, September 06, 2010

September 7, 2010-Rounding Sumatra

It is midnight.

Judy and Pierre are in the cockpit drinking wine and talking about life and I am below at the computer writing emails. We are in Seudu anchorage on the west coast of Sumatra Island.

Yes, Sumatra Island, Indonesia; at 1500 today we sailed around the western most tip of Sumatra Island.

So we have done another U-turn: we left Malaysia and are, after all, bound for Africa.

How did this happen?

After our gut wrenching decision to turn back from our planned voyage to Africa last month we have spent a month of soul searching, but also relaxing, at Rebak Island Resort in Langkawi where we sort of recovered our mental balance. This period of calmness has been beneficial. It has allowed us to look at things with a better perspective. Unless we wanted to sell the boat which we are unwilling to do at this time because living on Wings and sailing is still our life or stay in Malaysia permanently, which we also don't want to do even though we have liked it there for this month, we needed to do something about getting Wings on the move again.

We have decided to accept the help of a good friend and former crew member from Singapore, Pierre, to sail Wings to Africa. Judy came up with this idea after another mutual friend Tessa told us Pierre was available. When we contacted him a few days later he agreed and was even excited about the idea. With Pierre on board many of Judy's concerns are lessened and he is a big help. She can even opt out of the crossing from Reunion to Richards Bay if she wants. Plus her back has been fine. All of these factors added up to us making the choice to again face the ocean, this time with the addition of Pierre. We still have plenty of doubts, but we now feel that this is a doable trip. After we get to Africa we will still have some decisions to make but we will have been thinking about it for months, not hours, like last time.

We left Langkawi on Sept 4 and are now on the west coast of Sumatra. We did a lot of motoring but had some great sailing as well. We will depart Pedang for Rodriguez around the end of September. That is the big jump, over 2400 miles.

We will update the blog when we can.

Judy & Fred, SV Wings, Sumatra

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Click here to see the log book pages of our sailing trips in September 2010

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