New departure set!

Well we are still here in Bali – sitting on a very windy Amed beach on the north-east tip of Bali. To cut a long story short – we need a port clearance from the local harbor master to leave Bali, and he is concerned about the weather and strong winds which are forecast at 30 knots currently in the Lombok Strait and further out to sea.  We visited the harbor master yesterday and had some long discussions in Bahasa Indonesian about the seaworthiness of Simpson’s Donkey and our intended route to Australia. The harbor authorities thought we were heading directly to Australia over the Indian Ocean – and the sea state is very rough there currently with 7m waves.  So I explained the route we are taking to Darwin, staying North and utulising the natural shelter of the Indonesian island chain.  We eventually reached a compromise between their date of choice for us to depart (13th Feb) to the 10th Feb which is this Saturday. Overall I am very happy with the way the authorities here conducted themselves with regard to our situation – they are being responsible and have our best interests at heart. So to the harbor master and his team from Padang Bai port here in Bali – thank you and keep up the  good work!  We also are indebted to the support of our local agent here, Asia Pacific Super Yachts, who have supported our expedition tirelessly and processed all immigration, quarantine and customs paperwork on our behalf, received food shipments and been invaluable local support from Bali.  Thanks guys!

I am nervous about the Lombok Strait crossing as it is a huge strait with massive currents and lots of vessel traffic being an ‘archipalegic sea lane’.  It is so hard to get any reliable info on what the current is doing now as its so rough hardly anyone is out there.  The worst case scenario is being swept south down the strait and into the much rougher water south of the Indonesia Islands.  We will be trying our best to stay North and hope to head for a way point 10nm north of the north coast of Lombok.  Times like this require critical thinking and logical decision making.  It’s easy to become impatient and begin to bias decision making with emotions rather than logic.

So for now we are repacking the boat – loading more food and stores for the 30 day push to Darwin, eating like horses and having long sleeps at night.  I am in bed by 8pm and sleeping through till 6am. We are also doing more route planning, committing the island chain and route to memory and generally trying to be as ready as possible for our departure first thing Saturday morning – hopefully around 0800 hours.

This next leg of the journey will be a fascinating geographical journey which I have been looking forward to ever since I dreamt up this expedition.  We will immediately cross the ‘Wallace Line’ when we depart Bali.  The Wallace Line is an ecological transition zone between Asia and Australia.  East of this line the ecosystem becomes immediately more Australian whilst west of this island it is Asian. We will be starting to leave the tropical rain forest trees like teak and ebony and entering more drier type climates with gum trees.  Man eating tigers of Asia will start to be replaced with kangaroos! This change remarkably relates to fish, plants and animal species. If this type of thing cranks your handle I well recommend googling it more and learning about this fascinating natural phenomena – and of course Sir Alfred Wallace himself – the man who ‘discovered’ this line and who was a close friend of Sir Charles Darwin.

Another fascinating fact about the east Indonesian islands is the human history, which for a large part revolved very colorfully and savagely around the spice trade. Believe it or not but in the 1500’s and onward, nutmeg, mace and pepper were only found on one or two islands in the remote eastern Indonesian archipalego. Now these spices were literally (pound for pound) worth more than gold in Europe in those times.  There were many battles for control of these tiny islands, mainly between the English, Dutch and the Portuguese. In those days just sailing from Europe to Indonesia was a death defying challenge, in which many boats were either completely lost at sea or lost over half their crew to sickness. Once in Indonesia they were in a turf war for control of the islands which saw humanity committing nothing short of heinous and barbaric acts on one another.  Eventually there was a land swap deal negotiated and ‘New Amsterdam’ – in control of the Dutch at the time was passed into English control and renamed ‘New York’.  In return the English passed the control of the spice islands (at that time very valuable) to the Dutch.  Unfortunately for the Dutch – the spices were later replanted on other islands elsewhere in the world and the prices started to drop considerably. Now if this history is of interest to you – do read the most excellent book “Nathaniel’s Nutmeg” which is a fascinating recount of these turbulent times.

That’s all from rainy Bali. Be sure to follow the SPOT tracker page on Saturday morning 0800 onwards!

Lots of love from Captain Axe!

Posted on February 9, 2017, in Rowing Home. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. A history and geography lesson all wrapped up in a site report! Excellent stuff Mr G!
    Good luck for the weekend.


  2. I was starting to wonder if you were enjoying Bali so much you decided to stay for a while. 😉


  3. A nice and honest report Grant. I to was beginning to think an overstay in Bali was just to make us all jealous!! All the best for the tough one and cheer us on against Wales :))


  4. Axe, my adventurous, tenacious old mate! Have been following your extraordinary blogs before and since your departure from Singapore with bated breath waiting for the next instalments of your epic journey. Wow, dude, always setting the bar higher and I know you know what it is that reminds us that we are alive! I’ll just stick to mountain climbing for the time being. Apologies for my silence over the past month or so as I have spent the last 5 months in Amsterdam flitting over to Dublin and London occasionally, and presently in Melbourne. Stopped over Singapore but you had already had shipped out. Congrats on reaching Bali. What an effort. Believe it or not, I soo wish I could be there between you and Charlie helping out but wifey will only allow me from Circular Quay to Sydney Heads!!
    I can only imagine what you must be thinking as you push off from Bali. The second huge and perilous effort of your journey. Bon voyage to you both – all hearts and minds are with
    you for a safe if not so comfortable row across to Darwin – and remember never to smile at a crocodile. They’re mean, hungary bastards with lousy reputations. Just stay safe, keep spirits up and know we all believe you can pull off this breathtaking, life-changing effort. I, for one am proud to know you as one awe-inspiring dude and good friend.


  5. It’s Sat evening in the U.K. And we have been watching the rugby between Eng and Wales. Great match with Eng winning 21-16.
    As we sit comfortably here I am anxiously awaiting your next blog and wondering if you got off on the 9th
    Meanwhile I have been reading out some of your past blogs to my husband whose exciting idea of adventure is a game of cricket – say no more. He can’t believe the length of your next leg and the dangers you could encounter. Just praying the weather is kind and that all is safe going. Cheers Kate


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