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...............................................Catamaran Backchat from Sail Indonesia 2004
After six years of cruising on and off around Australia we were at last making the big step of sailing into International waters.
The options available to us were
* do it on our own
* go in the Darwin Bali Race
* go in the Darwin Kupang Rally.
We initially chose the Darwin Bali race because we had promise of gun crew, and in truth, hadn't thought very hard about it, or looked at options. Then our crew had to pull out. We were looking at six or seven days and nights (at best) with three on board, plus were told it WAS a race and we were expected to helm all the way, PLUS not use the motor!!
Hold on we sez!! We're cruising. This isn't meant to be hard work!! We've bin there dun that racing, and had our fair share. Also a look at the charts showed us we were going to miss a big bite of Indonesia. Suddenly the Darwin-Kupang Rally looked mighty attractive.
Hurried Sailmails were sent to the organising committee offering bribes to swap us from the Bali to the Kupang Rally - we were cruising through the Kimberleys at this stage and out of other forms of contact.- within a week were in!!
Entering in the Rally meant that the committee organised the Darwin end of things with Customs, the Indonesian embassy, and duty free. We also had a briefing, given CDs on cruising in Indonesia, and a BBQ to mix and mingle at the ever hospitable Darwin Sailing Club.
The Rally Committee took over the worries of getting our visas, handling our CAIT, and generally fast tracking all immigration, customs, and port entry issues into Indonesia.
We were the only boat who had sailed up from Western Australia, so we didn't know any of the other yachts, many of whom had been loosely cruising together across the Pacific and up the Queensland coast. However, it hasn't taken long to change that.

Forty boats left Darwin Harbour on the 23rd July 2004.
The start was a tad haphazard and ours was compounded by the fact that a certain satchel had been left adorning a table at the Darwin Sailing Club. That it contained ALL our passports, customs clearance, immigration and ship's papers, gave it a certain degree of priority. Our dinghy was dispatched (after it had been hoisted and outboard stowed), post haste to recover said satchel!! We crossed the start line late, still hoisting the main.

However, once we unwound our screecher, things improved considerably, as we overtook (much to the first mate's pleasant surprise) the entire fleet!!
The fleet was comprised of American, British, Norwegian, Dutch, German, Swedish, Danish, New Zealand, and Canadian yachts so truly an international group with five catamarans amongst them.

The view of the start from the stern of Backchat

We had radio skeds morning and night so we were all madly trying to estimate where other boats were - it might have been a rally, but if there's another sail on the horizon !

Overall the sailing was almost perfect. One boat did sail and helm the whole way - Pisces - with an American owner and two Aussie crew, otherwise we all 'fessed up' to using both the autohelm and motors when the winds died away at night.

We had a beam reach for most of the way, and had great use out of our new furling screecher and most boats did similar.

Of course, when cruising it is important to "gather and provide". However, the shark we caught wasn't on our planned menu, and getting the hook out proved a bit tricky travelling at 8 knots!!

Fishing in the Arafura Sea

We had a near full moon to help with visibility as well.
We had been warned to keep a look out for Indonesian fishing boats and fish traps as we neared the Timor coastline, but we didn't hear of any problems, although a lookout is certainly recommended.

Currents and tides were also a topic of deep discussion on the radio, and I don't think anyone has really sussed them out - they certainly don't operate in an orderly and predictable manner. We would hear someone report 2 knots of favourable tide, then half an hour later reverse the opinion.

The first boat - NZ mono, Risque Affaire, 2nd USA cat Searose, 3rd Aust cat (author) Backchat, 4th NZ cat Seaing Double, dropped anchor off Teddy's Bar in Kupang (with Welcome to Teddys Kupang emblazoned across the sea wall) 72 hours later, the last yacht, probably 36 hours after that.

Welcome to Teddys Bar in Kupang

Dick McCune and his right hand man Raymond Lesmana, were at Teddys Bar to greet us and smooth over the formalities of Customs and Immigration. The officials do like to have copious photocopies of everything - we'd taken extra copies but had to do more.

We suspect because we were in the first few boats, the Customs boys hadn't realised the potential of 40 yachts clearing in, as we weren't asked for any extra gratuities. However, later boats reported otherwise!!
Nevertheless, hearing the stories from boats who arrived independently, we were very glad and appreciative that we didn't have to traipse from one end of Kupang and back again to get the paper work done - it all happened at Teddys.

The city of Kupang and the Timorese couldn't do enough for us.
We now have some idea of what royalty and/or celebrities must feel like. The beach and seawall was packed with locals when we first went ashore - all there just to stare at the yachts and crews.

lThe locals checking out the Kupang Sunset

Teddys provided boys to grab our dinghy as we hit the shore and carry them up the beach, there were guides with sufficient English to help out if we had any queries, and of course Teddys, an open bar area on the sea front, was well stocked with cold Bintang, so naturally became our local yacht club.

The City of Kupang and Governor of East Nusa Tenggara hosted dinners and entertainment for us, all participating yachts were presented with plaques and locally woven wraps and scarves and we were generally felt very welcome. It was a big event for the city.


One of the announcements made in conjunction with the Rally was that there are now regular flights between Darwin and Kupang - something we would have loved knowing about when we were arranging return flights for our son. If boats have crew who need to return to Australia it's perfect!!

As part of the Rally, we were all issued with a promotional CD on the island of Alor where a big festival was being held, the week after Kupang. It wasn't part of our original itinerary at all, but the more information we read, the more we felt it was an opportunity not to be missed. It seems that half the fleet came to the same decision as 26 yachts sailed North and East to the little island of Alor so in a sense our Rally was extended.

Yachties at the official welcome in Alor

The town of Kalabahi and the people of Alor also treated us right royally - we were hosted to dinners at the Bupati's (Governor) home, the local Senator's home, were VIP's at the opening ceremony of the Festival, and asked to escort the Indonesian Minister for Tourism as he visited the local displays and exhibitions.

The harbour at Kalabahi

They had never had so many yachts in their harbour and don't have many Europeans visit their part of the world so we were welcomed with open hearts and smiles.

Traditional Dancer in Alor

It is a real pity that Indonesia has somehow gained a reputation for unpleasantness piracy and robbery. We found nothing but the contrary. We have felt very comfortable with these lovely, gentle, curious, happy people.
If we pass a fishing boat at sea there is nothing but yells and waves and welcomes, and on land they want to talk, even with the most limited of English.

Catamaran Backchat with other yachts in Alor

We would thoroughly recommend doing the Kupang Rally. It took us 6 weeks to get to Bali - had we gone in the Darwin Bali race we would have missed a very special part of Indonesia.

Jock & Ruth Main at present cruising in South East Asia .........Jock & Ruth Main
Jock and Ruth Main on their 48ft catamaran Backchat are presently cruising in Indonesia and will be going onto Malaysia and Thailand in 2005.

by Ruth & Jock Main November 2004


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