From Phuket, Thailand to Cochin, India took us just about 13 days. Most of the way was smooth sailing, and winds were in our favor. Every morning was a beautiful sunrise and every evening was a gorgeous sunset. There is definitely something magical about being in the wide open ocean with nothing but rolling blue waves as far as the eye can see.
We’ve arrived in India but have been quarantined to our boat for four more days! The India officials are making sure we don’t become the first cases of the coronavirus here. Everyone on board feels healthy, time for some boat projects!
With the NE monsoon season now in full swing we began our passage from Sabang, Indonesia to Phuket, Thailand with no shortage of wind. Unfortunately the wind was dominating out of the NE and that is where we wanted to go.
Being chased out of the Southern Hemisphere by the NE monsoon season, we have been sailing almost nonstop since leaving Labuan Bajo. In only two weeks we have covered a distance similar to the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. It’s not half bad considering the amount of doldrums we have encountered. Where we are now, the NE monsoon is characterized by light to nonexistent winds during the day accompanied by strong squalls at night complete with 40+ knots of wind, torrents of rain and thunderous lightning storms.
Our stop in Labuan Bajo was motivated by the need to extend our visas to a total of 60 days in Indonesia. This visa extension process turned out to take longer than expected.
We had almost given up hope of catching a glimpse of the giant manta rays in Komodo National park when we came across a local who pointed us in the right direction. After a bit of swimming around, Byron pointed after one that he glimpsed and Dan dove after it. Sinking deeper and deeper, fixated on trying to get a good shot, the ray slipped farther and farther out of range. Dan, realizing he was out of breath and about 30 feet deep, turned around only to be face to face with five of these majestic creatures at point blank range. Already oxygen deprived a wave of shock and fear coursed through him immediately followed by a calm as the group of giant manta rays (easily twice his size) glided by respectfully.
At long last after nearly a week of sailing through the Sumba straight from Kupang we have arrived at daybreak to the island cluster belonging to the Komodo National Park. The current through this area was so strong we found ourselves having to inch our way through with the tides. After anchoring near an outer island and waiting for the current to change in our favor, we are now anchored at Komodo Island in the heart of the park. These islands appear to be volcanic in their origin and host little vegetation. Adventure awaits.
Today we set sail for the port of Labuanbajo, where we will get our visas extended to 60 days. This should be a 3-4 day sail but we are expecting it to take longer as the NW monsoon season makes this area very light with winds. As such we have stocked up on sanding pads, varnish, brushes and hoses so Dan can get some varnish work done and Byron van install a saltwater washdown while floating around in the middle of the ocean. Just west of Labuanbajo lies the island of Komodo. And yes it is the home of the famous Komodo dragon, the last of the living dinosaurs. We will sail there and check out the dinosaurs before heading to Bali.
Forced to leave Australia due to our expiring visas, we cast off hoping for wind and a quick four day journey to Indonesia. What we found were light winds and doldrums (characteristic of this time between monsoon seasons) and arrived in Kupang, Indonesia twelve days later.
After a quick downwind run to Darwin, Byron flew back to the United States for his little brother’s wedding while Dan biked, camped, and explored the Darwin area.
After a long stretch of downwind sailing North, we stopped at Lizard Island in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef where we could do some hiking and snorkeling.
For some months now, the crew of SV Speck has been struggling with its power grid, often times having to turn off the fridge at night in order to keep the house batteries above the minimum voltage. Thanks to generous donations from both of Dan’s parents, Karen and David, we were able to acquire two massive 250 amp hour gel batteries. The difference was noticed right away. That week we experienced two overcast days in a row without our battery bank even flinching. Two new charge controllers for the solar panels were also purchased to get further efficiency out of them. Prior to this upgrade we would often have to run the engine about an hour a day to make up the deficit. Now we are easily able to embark on week-long passages without even turning on the engine once.
We spent one week in Suva, the capital of Fiji, also known as “little India”. Meeting plenty of friendly smiling faces and finding the food cheap and delicious, this port quickly established Fiji as our favorite island country thus far.
We’ve received a few donations that have allowed us to upgrade little parts of the boat as needed.
Nervous to leave the boat alone for an extended period of time but excited for a land adventure, we packed for a week and made the trip to our friend’s house in Costa Rica. An 18 hour bus ride from Puertobello, Panama to Uvita, Costa Rica provided for an opportunity to see the countryside and reconnect with friends from back home. Our friend and most generous host Joel provided beautiful accommodations in the rainforest with a spectacular view. We enjoyed some great locales where we were able to partake in some hiking, beachcombing, surfing, and canyoning.
We filled our remaining weeks in the Bahamas with kite boarding, snorkeling, fishing, boat projects, and exploring deserted islands. We went days heading south without seeing another soul.