I was looking over the bay when I tripped over a 4 metre long dragon
sunbathing on the path. Luckily its reaction were better than mine, and just
as I was about to step on him, he moved away. Lucky because they have such
vile saliva that even the slightest wound apparently goes badly septic, and
people often die, the husband of I believe Madonna was in hospital for
months after a scratch from one. Wild Buffaloes die after being bitten, the
dragons hunt them knowing that just one bite is usually enough, the buffalo
will die within 2 days, (the dragons usually bite their balls). These are
serious creatures 1 metre high, 200 kgs or more in weight and there are 1000
of them on Rinja. They are also cannibals - young dragons have to climb
trees to stay away from their elders in search of a tasty morsel, and on our
2nd trek we found 3 large dragons lying around having just gorged themselves
on a dead older dragon, then one waddled down to the river to drink - I got
to within 2 metres when he turned and hissed and when a dragon hisses you
move... Each female usually has 3 males (so the opposite of me recently) who
fight to decide who mates first, but each digs a number of nests into just
one of which the female will lay about 25 eggs, which hatch in 9 months. The
other nests are used as decoys. During the heat of the day the dragons lie
prone, but during the morning they are quite active, we saw 20 ranging from
5 metres to 1 metre long.

Komodo dragons only exist on 2 islands - Komodo and Rinja which together
make up the Komodo National Park. Each island is about 18 miles long by 10
wide, lying between the larger Indonesian islands of Flores to the East and
primitive Sumbawa to the West. Komodo has given its name to the dragons, but
Rinja is probably the better island to get real close and personal to a
dragon - or even lots of dragons - and wild buffalo, packs of monkeys, wild
pig, deer, cobras .all by trekking for 3 hours over the brown grass covered
hillsides which plunge down to mud pools in dry river beds and thence onto
pretty bays.

Rinja and Komodo are 2 hours west by boat from the tourist departure point
of Labuan Bajo, so most people arrive at 9am after a 7am start, or 2pm after
a midday start - neither the best time to see wildlife. So yachts have an
advantage - we had a cracking sail here yesterday doing 8.5 knots (too fast
for fish) and anchored in the protected bay opposite the Ranger Station. The
water is 12 metres deep and there is room to swing if the wind changes
direction. On even our electronic C Maps Intrepid is parked 300 metres on
land surrounded by dragons - the old charts were done by sextants and were
often up to half a mile out whereas the GPS which shows the boat's position
is correct - which makes it tricky getting through narrow reef passages,
although we can usually manage by ignoring the GPS and charts and spotting
the colour difference - shallow reefs show up as bright green.

Labuan Bajo is a natural harbour with anchorages shielded from the northerly
sea breezes. Finding where to leave your dinghy is often a problem, but we
found the Komodo Ranger Information Centre and Restaurant between the 2
piers next to the police/harbourmasters compound. We toured the coral caves
with Joseph, (750K incl car - about 45 pounds) and the huge rice fields SE
of Labuan Bajo. Flores is 250 kms long but the 'trans Flores Highway' is 750
kms long - work out how many bends and potholes that means - but the wet
rice paddies were impressive - they supply all Flores. Maeve (whom we have
known since Shell Oman) left us here so now I only have Nicky and Janet
(whose son Ben is a close friend of James).

After 2 superlative treks on Rinja, we felt that a 3rd might be a let down,
so moved 1 mile north to a small bay where there is a large orange mooring
buoy, and spent the afternoon watching monkeys and deer playing on the
beach, and people cutting firewood.  The 20 knot wind continued and my lack
of fishing success was becoming serious - I had to create a vegetable and
egg korma which Janet (a connoisseur vegetarian) reckoned pretty good, but
it felt like cheating.

So now we are sailing west along the 250 miles north coast of Sumbawa
towards Lombok and Bali. You have probably heard of Krakatoa but an even
bigger explosion was in 1815, the 'year without a summer', when it snowed in
London in August.  Gunung Tambora on the island of Sumbawa exploded
showering 150 cubic kilometres of pumice and ash. I find that hard to
imagine, it's a hole 3 miles deep by 3 miles long by 4 miles  wide spewed
out all around the world in a few hours. It killed 10,000 straightaway, and
most of the rest of Sumbawa's population died of starvation or fled the
island. Itinerants repopulated the island. Not a reassuring place to sail

Navigationally its not brilliant either - we aimed for Banta Island just
east of Sumbawa but the position was 1/3 mile out over a wicked reef, so in
20 knots wind and sharp steep waves we delicately skirted the reef and
anchored in a deep bay SE of the island. Within 3 minutes 3 men in slitted
balaclavas tried to come aboard from a canoe with brightly decorated animist
carvings, and then tried to tie up to us. Unsmiling, unspeaking unfriendly,
all we could see was their eyes, it took all my firm courtesy to cast off
their ropes twice and bid them Selamat Jalan. They left still silent,
sullen, surly.

The other boat in the bay was collecting firewood, then after 2 hours they
came towards us in a dug out, gestured to ask if they could come alongside,
smiled, shook hands and we communicated.

'Could we mend their flippers?' Well yes, I did my best with tape

'Would we like to buy some fish?' Yes, we had caught a lovely Wahoo just 2
hours before but we were keen to show that trade was OK, so we bought 2
coral trout.

'Would we like a lobster?' Maybe, and they returned with 2 kids, and one
lobster, which they wanted to swap for Nicky's flippers. But Nicky is
attached to them, they are the only ones she has found that fit, so we
negotiated a price that would allow the fisherman to buy flippers (12
pounds). A spare T shirt, 5 strawberry Fantas, 2 breakfast bars, 2
lollipops, and 1 pencil completed the transaction.

They had a compressor in their dugout, it's a very dangerous way to get
fish, just pressurized air pumped down to the diver. Smiles and waves all
round, they seem happy, so are we. Janet and Nicky prepare a mélange of
Lobster, coral trout ('superb eating') and Wahoo. I fit a bolt to Janet's
bedroom door, and move my pepper spray and taser to near my pillow in case
the 3 men in the earlier boat visit in the night. Such is itinerant life.

But next morning we were still intact, only 2 smiling men in another dugout
offering us another lobster in exchange for flippers. Regretfully we said
no, gave them pink Fanta and breakfast bars and up anchored and waved

And sailed west past Komodo island, to the channel between the high volcanic
island of Gulung Api and the mainland in 20 knot winds and its as well they
were there because the current was flowing at 4 knots eastward against us,
so although Intrepid nobly did 8 knots and we edged to the 100 metres depth
contour to reduce the current it took us 5 hours to cover 20 miles past the
good looking wooden boat building village in the straights, then angle south
in towards Bima Bay, a narrow indentation into Sumbawa's north coast. The
anchorage off the village of Kolo/Nae was full of spider boats - 12 metre
long narrow fishing boats with extended lattice like outriggers extending 6
metres on either side so they look like spiders. No room for Intrepid so we
went 1 mile back north to Surate Village (each village seems to have several
names) and went ashore.

Had we brought sweets? Well No actually as 20 very polite kids clustered
round, and 2 fishermen helped us lift our dinghy up the beach. So we walked
1 mile south  to Kolo/Nae past lots of well kept well hedged fields, jersey
cows (well they looked like Jerseys)  palm tree plantations and stout animal
enclosures, admired the spider boats at their moorings, and bought a jar of
lollipops from a nice Muslim shopkeeper who couldn't quite believe that
anyone could buy a whole jar - 60 lollipops for 8000Rs (30p). By this time
every kid in the village had heard the news, so we were surrounded by 40 or
so kids. Raman (a volunteer teacher who spoke some English) helped us
distribute some, then feeling like the Pied Piper of Kolo/Nae I set off down
the road followed by Nicky Janet Raman and 40 kids. They dropped off
eventually, well 20 of them did, so that by the time we reached the dinghy
we had 20 small helpers to help us lift the dinghy down the beach. There was
a real sense of fair play, each kid took just one of the remaining
lollipops, and then pushed younger ones forward who had not. Nice village,
not sure what they make of us..

As the sun set behind the distant volcanoes, the spider boats of Kolo/Nae
came out in stately procession, white light on each, 100 metres apart, 38 of
them stretching across and along the bay, while fires from land clearance
glowed orange against the dark hillside. Just like St Aubins Bay in Jersey
where I grew up, with the lights of the promenade strung round like a
necklace, and orange lights up the hillside. Sumbawa is worth a visit if
ever you get the chance.

Have you ever woken up dreaming that someone has moved your entire house 1
mile while you were sleeping? Well I woke at 0550 and went up to have a
look - to find we had moved 1 mile north of where we had anchored, ending up
in open water 200 metres deep with 50 metres of anchor and chain hanging
vertically below us. Unnerving.

The pilot book for this area is useless, Mike and Maria (an Aus/SA couple
who are leaving various entanglements behind them in Perth, he is a
raconteur ex Bristows helicopter pilot) just sail each day until it starts
to get dark then nose around and usually find somewhere to anchor OK. But
its usually better to have at least some idea of where it is possible to
stop for the night. So we use notes from previous boats - which
unfortunately are a very mixed bunch, 5-10 years old, some pre GPS, some
positions are inaccurate and there is often a gap of up to 55 miles between
entries. So next day we had a sail of 55 miles, left at 0530 and with a 1
knot current against us just made it into Tanjung (Beach) Breti village as
the sun set at 6pm.  This was our only chance before it was too dark to see,
a black sand beach steeply shelving - about 45 degrees - we circled to check
depth and dropped the anchor in 15 metres. A bit towards the beach the depth
was 5 metres, a bit further offshore, 40 metres deep. The anchor set well,
but about 4am a 20 knot SE wind got up, and blew Intrepid offshore to the
end of her anchor chain. OK so far, but now the depth was 40 metres - and
she just picked up her anchor chain and went for a walk with us asleep
inside. We have a Raymarine anchor alarm but it is so quiet that if the wind
is up you can't hear it. All part of an itinerant life, we learn, (maybe we
could have run a rope all the way to shore and tied it round a palm tree or
dropped a 2nd anchor inshore but it was so dark that neither were really
practical), we do all we can to prepare and avoid situations like this but
in the end you would never sleep or enjoy life if you worried about every

Comforting words......but 2 hours later on our way to an 'idyllic' bay in
exclusive Moyo island, ($500/night) the wind gusted to 30 knots and under
full sail I applied a bit of strength to the wheel to counter the heel to
windward towards a coral reef 100 yards away....a sudden crack and I was
holding a spinning useless wheel. In a car or airplane this could be
slightly alarming. The diagnosis was instant, broken cable to the rudder.
Take in all sails, Nicky got the anchor ready in case, I extracted the
emergency steering tiller from the sail locker, undid the cover over the
quadrant and fitted the tiller directly to the top of the rudder. Control
again, within 3 minutes maybe less. Now where? In the 'idyllic' bay the wind
was stronger if anything, so we laid a course to Labuan, the harbour of the
'capital' of Sumbawa 10 miles away.

Labuan is a real unspoiled fishing village, the harbour is 2 miles west.
Boreg paddled out to welcome us and tout for business, 30 kids mobbed us as
we went ashore, Boreg borrowed a motorbike (for 50 pence - 10,000 Rupiahs)
and with me perched on the back we drove round the hardware shops in Sumbawa
Besar in search of 5 mm flexible 7x19 stainless steel wire rope in case we
needed it (it was Friday) -
and found it in our 4th shop. Meanwhile Nicky and Janet were still the
centre of attention and 30 kids helped us launch the dinghy then Nicky and I
dug down deep into the steering conduits to find the break, and I fitted the
clamps and thimbles which I keep on Intrepid to fix the steering chain to
the cable, while Janet plied us with tea and cake. Beats Sudokus.

They race buffalo here if you can imagine this, but we were a day too late
and Ramadan started today, the mosques were overflowing and the muezzins
came from all quarters - it was a real party atmosphere with Boreg and his
family (his wife is in Saudi Arabia as a nanny). Next day we sailed 45 miles
west across Selat Alas between Sumbawa and Lombok. We are starting to
understand the winds here - there is a prevailing southerly wind, which
however is obstructed by a. the high volcanoes south of us which funnels it
at twice the
speed through the valleys and straits and is zero elsewhere;  b. the sea
breeze which blows from the north onshore from 9am to 4pm and cancels out
the prevailing
southerly wind, resulting in dead calm or 12 knots if in the lee of a
volcano; and c. most winds die down at night. So we get winds from most
directions and most speeds. We average 3
hours motor/day in winds of less than 5 knots which at 2000 rpm uses 2
litres of precious clean Aus diesel/hour, and moves Intrepid 17 miles and
provides 150 amps electricity and 90 litres fresh water/day; the remaining 7
hours we sail in winds of up to 30 knots when we do 5-8 knots.

We made Lawang Island on the NE of Lombok and dicing with death, Nicky on
the bows to save 3 miles and get in before dark, skirted between 2 reefs and
a 1/3 mile GPS/chart error to gain a pleasant anchorage off a gently
shelving beach in 5 metres, to find that some damn wahoo had eaten my
favourite lure, hook line and everything so no fish.

But Janet is cooking, we have just spoken to James on the sat phone - he
starts work tomorrow based in London - we wish you all a pleasant
autumn/spring in
your respective hemispheres. We love to get your emails, long ones (more
than 30KB) go into a bulk mail which I access from internet cafes, most come
straight into Intrepid when we log on with the sat phone (usually daily).

Andy Nicky and Janet.

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