On to Hoga

I took a break from writing the blog over the last 10 days while I was in the US for my annual cancer screens. Great news all around. I am still cancer free, I had the opportunity to visit with good friends back in Seattle, Jenna’s cousin Holly flew back to Indonesia with me for a 12 day Sophie Adventure Cruise, and we decided to depart Ambon for Hoga Island in the Wakatobi Group the morning after Holly and I arrived back on Sophie.

Oh yeah, and we also just learned that our beloved New England Patriots won the Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks in a nail biter of a game. Go PATS!, and thank you Seattle fans for all of the love and respect you showed me and my Patriots hat over the last week.

We didn’t watch the game because we had a good weather window for a Sunday morning (local time) departure for our 300 mile run from Ambon to Hoga. There are prevailing westerlies in Indonesia this time of year, and we have committed to friends that we will travel 800 miles to the west and into the wind from Ambon to Bali within the next three weeks. Our strategy is to first cover the initial 300 miles in a hop over to Hoga, then cover another 300 miles southeast to Flores Island, then skim along the coast of Komodo, Sumbawa, and Lombok in order to get to Bali. After we explore Bali for a bit, we will probably cruise back around these 4 islands for a couple of months as we wait for the local weather to transition to monsoons from the southeast, then we will sail with the wind up to Kalimintan to visit some orangutans and then head on to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand

So this initial Hoga leg was pretty important to us, important enough to make us decide to skip what turned out to be an awesome Super Bowl. The weather forecast called for 5-15 knot westerly winds from Sunday to Monday night, increasing to 10-20 knots Tuesday through Friday. We now know that in this part of Indonesia, the wind speed can easily be double what is forecasted, and Jenna and I were not thrilled at the idea of motorsailing into 30 knots of apparent wind for 300 miles just so that we could watch the Super Bowl. So it was an easy decision to take off on Sunday morning.

It was tough, however, to say goodbye to our friends in Ambon. We have sailed with the Kee family and their boat Per Ardua for 3 months and 2500 miles, but their boat simply cannot motor to weather the way that Sophie can, so they will be heading Southeast to Banda and will hopefully rejoin us in Malaysia in June. Spending an extended amount of time with the Kee family was everything we had thought and dreamed cruising in the tropics would be like. We are all going to miss them very, very much. The same goes for John and Sue on the catamaran Ocelot, who will be heading to Banda with Per Ardua. Finally, while in Ambon we were able to connect with the Moores and the Connors, two lovely American expat families who shared with us incredible kindness and hospitality while helping us navigate around town. They were an especially big help to Jenna and the kids while I was back eating cheeseburgers in the US. We hope they can come and visit with us as we continue to head west.

Sophie pulled anchor in Ambon at 10:00 AM local time on Sunday and enjoyed a fast motorsail for the first 20 miles out of Ambon Bay. Then the seas turned into a bit of a current-induced washing machine, and Holly became seasick. Then we were hit by one of our biggest squalls on the trip, a 15 mile-wide monster with sustained winds of 20-35 knots for 2 hours. It blew out by 8:00 PM, but it took the seas several hours longer to calm down. We’ve been motoring into a 10 knot headwind and 1 knot current for the last 15 hours. Both engines are running @2100 RPMs, no sails are up, and we have been averaging 6 knots since we left Amobon. We had a beautiful moon throughout the entire night and today has been bright and sunny with no rain. The current keeps the seas flat, and Sophie has a gentle motion. It’s great to be back where I belong.

Our noontime position was 04.37.22 South 124.38.46 East. We covered 160 miles in 26 hours after leaving Ambon, and at this speed we will drop an anchor in the lagoon at Hoga on Tuesday morning. There is supposed to be excellent coral and beaches there, and we are all looking forward to getting back into the water.

We are so lucky to be doing this, and we look forward to watching a DVD of the game in a couple of weeks.

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