Bali Belly

IMG_20150325_165611We left Bali a week ago and have made overnight stops at Lembongan, Gili Air (above), Kangean, and Bawean. We are heading north to Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) to hang out with orangutans. It is our next big adventure.

I would love to be able to tell you that we successfully made it out of Bali without encountering any problems, but I cannot. Unfortunately, one of us came down with “Bali Belly,” a local disease involving water-born parasites that can get inside your system and ruin your vacation. But it wasn’t me that picked up the hitchhikers, or Jenna, or Leo, or Hazel.

It was Sophie.

Our first sign of trouble occurred last Monday afternoon when we started up the engines and pulled the anchor in order to leave Bali and make the 12 mile trip over to Lembongan. The propellers felt like they were covered in seaweed or plastic and were not working well. Our anchor chain and anchor bridle, the 10 meter length of 1″ nylon rope we use to attach the point of each hull to the anchor chain, were covered in barnacles. And when I say covered, I mean COVERED.


We had been anchored in Bali’s Serangan Harbor for three weeks, and the harbor has a reputation for fostering marine growth, but I had never seen our anchor chain encrusted with so many barnacles. We quickly raised the rest of the chain, and after alternating each engine in forward and reverse gear a few times, the propellers seemed to be working again. I assumed we had successfully knocked off whatever was hanging from them. I had no desire to dive under the boat in that harbor, whose muddy water flows from Bali’s primary landfill. Lembongan has much cleaner water, and I figured we could explore the problem when we got there.

I did so two hours later, and I was shocked with what I had found. The entire metal surface of both propellers and their saildrives (the device that looks like the bottom half of an outboard motor and connects the propellers to Sophie’s engines) were completely encrusted with barnacles. Each hull had over 1,000 barnacles growing on it as well, with one located about every 3-5 inches along the entire length our catamaran.

We had visited Lembongan three weeks earlier, and when I checked the boat at the time I saw that the propellers, saildrives, and hulls were completely free and clear of marine growth and barnacles. This didn’t surprise me, because we had hauled Sophie out of the water a year ago in New Zealand and had painted her hull with antifouling paint and her propellers and saildrives with PropSpeed, all with the goal of retarding this type of growth.

What happened during the three weeks in Serangan was a complete and catastrophic failure of our boat’s chemically-derived underwater immune system. Sophie had Boat Bali Belly, and she had it bad. It was time to go to work.

I grabbed my mask, snorkel, fins, and a plastic scraper, and then went to work on the propellers. I normally like to use plastic scrapers underwater in order to avoid damaging the hull or the antifouling, but I immediately broke the plastic scraper on the metal propeller while simultaneously cutting my hand on the saildrive barnacles while trying to steady myself. The barnacles clearly won Round 1.

I then had Jenna get me my Kevlar gloves (which I used to wear back in the days when we cruised in waters where people could actually catch fish)  along with a metal putty knife we had down in our bilge stores. The combination of these two tools worked much better, and after 2 hours of underwater aerobics I succeeded in getting both propellers and their saildrives completely clear of banacles. Round 2 went to me.

The next morning we fired up the engines, dropped our mooring line, and headed northeast to Gili Air, which is 50 miles away. Unfortunately, that 50 miles is through the Selat Lombok, the strait between Bali and Lombok that connects the Indian Ocean with the Java Sea. During this time of year it can have a 5-8 knot current flowing south, and we were initially making 2 knots of boat speed with both engines running at 2600 RPM against the current. We were following a course recommended by a local ferry captain that was published in the Noonsite cruising website, but that strategy clearly wasn’t succeeding, so we turned back to Bali and crept north along a countercurrent flowing right next to her eastern shore. We made it to Gili Air by late afternoon and picked up a mooring right off the beach. Hazel jumped into the water and continued to practice standing up on Leo’s surfboard – she has become obsessed – while I attacked the barnacles on the hulls with my 10 inch plastic scraper.

Fortunately, these barnacles would come off with a single scrape. I assume they had a difficult time establishing a strong purchase on Sophie’s antifouling paint. Unfortunately, Sophie has a lot of underwater surface to cover, and I spent another two hours clearing off the port hull. Also, I wasn’t wearing a shirt, and I realized later that night that every time I leaned my forearm against the hull, the barnacles would scratch my arm. The next morning I woke up to find red, cat-like scratches covering my arms and shoulders, scratches created by landfill-fueled super barnacles that had attacked our boat. Round 3 went to them as I bathed myself in Neosporin.

The next morning Hazel went back out for surfboard practice, and I went back out to finish the job. This time I was wearing Kevlar gloves AND a long-sleeved shirt. It took another three hours but I removed all of the barnacles from the starboard hull and even used a large screwdriver to auger out all of the throughhulls, the openings in Sophie’s hulls where seawater is pumped in and wastewater is pumped out. Sophie has a lot of throughhulls, but I go the job done. Hazel loved being on the surfboard when the high speed ferries carrying backpackers up from Bali passed right by us, throwing up a big wake with a nice break. I think Instagram has 100 new photos of a little elf in her stingray suit hanging 10 while tethered to a French-made mothership.

It was good to be back in the water.

Gili Air is a cute tourist island that is a mile across and has a ban on gas-powered cars and motorcycles. Instead there is a fleet of pony-drawn carts that haul freight and tourists around the island, and it reminded the kids of their visit to Michigan’s Mackinaw island last summer. Just imagine Mackinaw filled with surfers, surrounded by coral reefs, and blanketed with beachfront bars serving 2-for-1 happy hour cocktails for $4 to Russian backpacker tourists in bikinis. In other words, it was just like Michigan.

The 2 nights in Gili Air marked the end of our 2 months in tourist country, the first tourist area we had visited since Fiji last August. It was nice being in a place where we could see couples from China posing for wedding photographs on the beach at sunset …


… along with ridiculously-named boats that pulled tourists on inflatable toys.


I could have spent at least another week in Gili Air, but we had to leave the next day if we wanted to get to Kalimantan to see the orangutans and then to Singapore before our Indonesia visas expire on April 18th.

But our departure from Gili sparked a bit of a soulsearching conversation between me and Jenna: are we going too fast?

It seems that with every country we visit, we seem to be falling in love with it just as we rush out the door and head for the next country. This is happening right now with us in Indonesia. We love this place, and we are leaving in three weeks. Why aren’t we slowing down?

I don’t know the right answer. It’s been 2 years this month since we left San Diego. In our first year abroad, we visited six countries: French Polynesia, The Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand, where we spent 6 months. In our second year of travel, we visited five countries: Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, where we have stayed for five months. This year also included a 6 week visit for all of us back to the US. For our third year, we plan to visit four countries on Sophie (Singapore, Maylasia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka) along with four countries via land (Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.) We can envision doing five countries in the following year: Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mozambique, and South Africa. So over a four year period, that is averaging around 6 countries a year. On paper, that seems slow. When your are in the middle of doing it, it seems way too fast.

There is, however, one area where I will plead completely guilty when it comes to going too fast, and that is when it comes to shopping for groceries. The morning we left Bali, I was responsible for going to the store and doing our provisioning. Jenna had recently taken a Balinese cooking class with the kids and carefully prepared a shopping list of ingredients she wanted from the store that she could use in preparing the new recipes she had just learned. I confused her list with a list of everything we needed for 10 days of passage making. So we are week into our current trip and have a great supply of things like tumeric root and fresh shallots, but we are out of things like bread, fruit, meat, and juice.

I’ve been going through our larder as a result and realized I have a mustard problem. I grab a jar every time I go to the store. We now have a year’s supply on board.


Fortunately I also discovered (in Bali, of all places!) the perfect passage-making food for boats going offshore: jars of German sausages.


I never knew that these existed! The kiddies look at them as if they were jars of crack cocaine and have even volunteered to clean toilets if I promise to open up a jar.

In addition to mustard and sausages, we still have 30 meals of frozen fish left on board along with lots of pasta and rice and some remaining greens. So we should be able to make it to Kalimantan in 2 days without starving. We will be staying there in the port of Kumai, where there is supposed to be a good market and some grocery stores. We should be all set from a food perspective.

From a weather perspective, we are definitely in the transition period between monsoons. That means very light air, and now that we are away from big islands it seems we haven’t seen a rain shower or squall for a week.


Jenna took this picture of a small cargo vessel yesterday. It passed our stern as it slowly chugged north from Java to Kalimantan. As you can see, the seas are like a mirror and there is no wind. Clearly we would prefer a nice 15 knot tradewind blowing behind us, but we are not complaining about covering ground in these conditions, either. We are averaging 5 knots while running just one engine at a time at 2000 RPMs. It helps that Sophie has a clean belly. 🙂

We have another 180 miles to go before we see the orangutans. We hope we have enough fuel. We know we have enough mustard. The crew is in good spirits. Leo and Hazel are doing great in school and have even found the time to start memorizing lines from Gilligan’s Island. We know we are going too fast on our journey. We know there is so much more we want to see. We know we could (and increasingly think we will) spend a lifetime doing this. We know we are running out of time. And yes, we know how lucky we all are.

Leprechaun Attack!


Earlier this week, Leo and Hazel spent an afternoon constructing a leprechaun trap out of Lego bricks. They built a chamber that was open on the top, filled it with all of their gold, and then positioned a flashlight to shine on the gold. They believed that the leprechauns would climb up the ramp, the ramp would then slip away, and the leprechauns would spend the night trapped in a Lego block prison.


Their plan was a spectacular failure, because we all woke up on the morning of Saint Paddies Day to find an empty leprechaun trap, no gold, and a completely trashed boat. The leprechauns apparently grabbed the gold and then wrecked havoc on Sophie, overturning chairs, scattering schoolbooks, and dumping flour and spices everywhere in some sort of mischievous Gaelic frenzy.

The children think it is awesome that we still live in a world where we need to be careful about incurring the wrath of magical elves. The parents? Not so much.

Later that night we all went to an Irish bar in Sanur, The Wicked Parrot, to celebrate with green beer and mashed potatoes. The place was full, but none of the retired Ozzie tourists dared compete with Leo and Hazel in the dance contests, and they won all of the prizes.


The local Indonesians who played in the Irish pub band thought they were pretty cool, though.


We are still in Bali waiting for the Indonesia social visas for Jenna and the kiddies to be renewed. In all of our other ports, we’ve been able to renew visas with 2-3 visits to the Immigrasi office, but in Bali it takes 10 business days and the renewal has to be handled by a paid agent. We probably will not get their visas back until next week, and then we will head north to Kalimantan to visit the orangutans. This will be our last stop in Indonesia before we move on to Singapore.

Since I flew back to the US in January, I am traveling on a different type of Indonesia visa, the 30 day “Visa on Arrival”.  It can only be renewed once, and after the second 30 day period you have to leave the country in order to get a new visa. So yesterday I boarded a cheap flight to Singapore, spent 90 minutes at Changi Airport there, then returned to Bali on another flight.

There were a lot of stores selling purses at the airport there, and I think Jenna may need to up her handbag game when we spend time in that country. Especially since we will be staying at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, which seems a little more swank than some of the places we’ve been staying at since we left New Zealand a year ago.


I was able to get a shot of Serangan Harbor as my flight gained altitude yesterday. Sophie is one of the dots to the right of the harbor.


We did get a new neighbor yesterday, and I do believe this a private yacht. I could picture myself driving this back in Seattle if our unicorn ever comes in. We could install a zipline between the mast and the crow’s nest!

We’ve also spent some time over the last week exploring Bali. It’s been fun watching Hazel go around using her camera. She did a nice job framing the entrance of a typical family dwelling in the center of the Bali.


The same family has lived here for 30 generations.

She also took some shots of their livestock and nailed, in my view, what it means to be a pig.


She also got a nice shot of a temple on the west coast, where hundred of Asian tourists where taking more pictures of her than of the temple.


From a cruising perspective, Bali represents a mixed bag to me. It has an incredibly interesting Hindu culture and history. It has excellent restaurants, water parks, and zip line rides. They sell cheap, delicious beer EVERYWHERE. It’s safe. The people here have a sweet and loving nature.

On the other hand, their are no quiet, secluded anchorages where you can swim off your boat. It is very crowded. You need to take a US$7 cab to go anywhere. The downtown area near Kuta is the most touristy place I’ve seen this side of Vegas.

I’m looking forward to being here for Balinese New Year this weekend, including the day of silence when EVERYTHING shuts down for 24 hours. And the night before we will watch the Ogoh Ogoh parades, where villages carry around giant paper maché statues of evil spirits, and then burn them on the beach.

After that, I’ll be quite ready to go offshore again. Time for the next adventure.

Anchorages in Komodo


Here is a quick post with the waypoints for where Sophie stayed during our visit to the Komodo area. It’s intended for boats following in our footsteps. And as you can see from the above picture of our anchorage in Rinca, our new Navionics charts are still off by up to a quarter of a mile! Either that or a dragon picked up Sophie in the middle of the night and flew us to her nest.

Labuan Bajo – 08.30.380S 119.52.341E
We anchored a mile south of town off the beach in front of the La Prima Hotel in 50 feet of sand. It was quiet and sheltered, even in a westerly. For our first few days we left our dinghy at the beach in front of the hotel but then switched to the more convenient dinghy dock on the north side of the harbormaster’s jetty in town.

Komodo – 08.34.363 S 119.30.398E
We anchored at the top of the bay in 60 feet of sand near the cruise ship pier, which was empty. From the boat we could see deer wandering along the beach, and it was a quick dinghy ride to see the dragons, which were 200 meters from the dock. It was also a 2 mile dinghy ride to Pink Beach, which was an excellent place to snorkel.

Rinca – 08.39.220S 119.42.835E
Despite what you see in the above photo, we actually anchored in 30 feet of mud in a small bay near the National Park dock. It was a very, very protected anchorage. We were also told that crocodiles lived in the mangroves, so no swimming!

Palau Mauna – 08.33.631S 119.38.061E
This is the uninhabited island where the kids spent an afternoon playing on a beautiful pink sand beach and where Jenna and I saw a family of lionfish. We anchored off the southeast tip of the island and watched with great interest as Sophie swung back and forth in the converging currents. We wouldn’t spend the night here, but it was a wonderful day stop.

Gili Banta – 08.25.66S 119.19.557E
This was an overnight stop for us 32 miles west of Labuan Bajo. We arrived at sunset and left at sunrise. We anchored in the northernmost finger bay on the east side. The steep hills covered with grass made us think we were back in New Zealand. Very protected.

Gili Air – 08.21.948S 116.04.932E
30 hours later we picked up a mooring off the tourist beach in Gili Air. The approach from the north in the channel between Gili and Lombok was straightforward, and it was easy to follow the tourist boats through the break in the surf into the anchorage area. A guy on shore charged us ~US$5 to use his mooring for the night, which seemed like a better alternative than trying to anchor in the crowded harbor.

For all of these anchorages, we use Google Earth photos via the OvitalMap iPad app to complement our Navionics charts. It would be quite difficult to enter these anchorages for the first time without the satellite photos. The Google Earth/OvitalMap combination has become an indispensable navigation tool for us.


Bali Time


It has been a very busy two weeks for us on Sophie since we arrived in Bali. Our goal was to get here from Labuan Bajo in time for “Girls Week”, a mini vacation here in Bali for Jenna and two friends who flew out from the States for the party. We had a gentle overnight passage from Labuan Bajo to Gili Air, where we spent a night on a mooring near the beach resorts. On the next day we covered the remaining 56 miles to our anchorage in Bali in about 5 hours, thanks to a strong current in the Selat Lombok.

I’ll leave it to Jenna to document what happened during Girls Week in a future post. Needless to say, the ladies had a great time.

Sophie is currently anchored in Serangan, a relatively quiet fishing harbor on the northern end of the Benoa harbor area. Our current location is 08.43.127 South, 115.14.853 East. Garuça Cat is right next to us, along with 50 other boats in the harbor. Most of the boats are used for tourism.

To the immediate north of us is Sanur, a relatively quiet tourist city with waterfront hotels and a strip of restaurants and tourist shops. On our first few days here, we took our dinghy up to the Sanur beach to visit the area, but soon became victim to a big swing in tides.


At one point while pushing the dinghy across 150 yards of muddy salt flats, the dinghy wheels buckled under the motor and failed.


This happened to us a year ago in New Zealand, and we had had the aluminum wheel struts reinforced by a welder to prevent this from happening again. Oh well, no more using the dinghy to get to Sanur.

This wasn’t the only dinghy problem we encountered on our arrival to Bali. During our stopover in Gili Air, the motor stopped working. We could start it, but it would die as soon as we applied any gas. It became worse in Serangan, because by the time we got there the motor wouldn’t start at all. No motor on our dinghy could present some problems for a Girls Week where Sophie will be at anchor. I have to admit I was a little stressed and spent 5 hours working on the dinghy motor. I changed the plugs, fuel filters, and cleaned the carburetor as best I could with no luck. I finally bought a new tank of gas from a local, and that seemed to have solved the problem. But I still had to run the motor on the new gas for an hour to get it running smoothly. I have never had a problem with bad gas before, but that seemed to have been the problem in this case.

We plan to buy a new dinghy in Malaysia or Thailand, most likely an aluminum hulled Swift like the one our friends on Nalukai drive. Our Walker Bay has served us well for 7 years, but its plastic bottom is beginning to wear and the Honda outboard is showing some age. EVERYONE out here uses a 2 stroke Yamaha outboard, and a 25 horse Yamaha coupled with the new dinghy will let us get up on a plane with 7 adults on board.

While working on the engine I was also doing laundry, cleaning toilets, and getting the boat ready for 2 guests, each in their own cabin. Jenna was running Sophie School. By the time Elizabeth showed up on Friday, I was exhausted!

Jenna and the ladies then pretty much disappeared for the next 5 days, and I took over Sophie School and overall kid management. I am proud to say that we got three full school days in. Hazel even had the chance to enjoy some extracurricular reading.


When we weren’t doing school, the kiddies and I had the chance to explore a little bit of the local scenery. We went into Sanur so I could buy a new paddle for my paddle board. While there I saw one of the sweetest rides I’ve seen on the trip.


I want one. Badly.

The kiddies and I enjoyed one epic day where we went to a water slide park, an open market, and then to a mall were we ate at Tony Roma’s and hung out in a video arcade.


I am glad that Jenna got to enjoy a mini-vacation, because she has been with the kiddies pretty much non-stop for two years. Leo and Hazel had fun hanging out with me.


A couple of milkshakes a day doesn’t hurt morale, either. Daddy daycare rules!

We even got hit with a nice squall. Thankfully it happened during the day, and the three of us were on the boat. Wind gusts hit 48 knots, and visibility disappeared. I turned the motors on as a precaution, but thankfully there is thick mud in the anchorage and Sophie didn’t budge. Our neighbor Guta was alone on Garuça Cat, and she was pretty scared at the time. We later learned that a couple of people in town had trees fall on them during the squall. They died. Scary stuff.


Have I mentioned yet that Bali is unlike any place we’ve visited since we left on the trip? I haven’t yet had the chance tour the interior or any of the Hindu cultural sites — we’ll do that as a family next week. But so far what I’ve seen is some weird mixture of Vegas, Disneyland, and a tropical spring break.


The city areas are very crowded, and we have to take a 10 minute taxi ride to get anywhere. Thankfully the rides cost around $5, and we now have apps on our phones we can use to order cabs.


There are thousands of tourist restaurants here, and some are ridiculous. But most of the ones we’ve eaten at have been quite good and reasonably priced.


Most of all, people seem to come here to PARTY! Round trip flights to Bali from Australia are as low as $150, and there seem to be bars on every block. This is a far cry from Jayapura, our port of entry into Indonesia. There you heard the Muslim call to prayer on loudspeakers throughout the day, Jenna had to cover shoulders and legs while in town, and there were three places where you could buy a drink.

Dorothy, we’re not in Papua any more.

Anyway, after 5 days exploring Bali, the ladies joined us on Sophie and we motored 15 miles to spend the night at Lembongan, and island in the strait to the east of Bali. We were able to pick up a mooring and enjoyed watching the mostly Chinese day tourists being towed around on inflatable hot dogs, oftentimes right next to Sophie. But the daytrippers were all gone by 3:00 PM, and we then got a quiet harbor to ourselves. We were able to swim, paddle board, and eat line-caught yellowfin tuna for dinner.

We returned to Serangan the next day and spent a long weekend celebrating HAZEL’S SEVENTH BIRTHDAY. The weekend involved three birthday dinners, an afternoon at a resort, and a return trip to the water park.

We held a birthday brunch on Saturday, where the Girls Week ladies, Guta and the Sophie crew enjoyed some homemade lemon cake, courtesy of Jenna.


Hazel then enjoyed opening gifts from around the world, wearing her flower girl dress from her cousin Caroline’s wedding last summer.


The festivities ended on Sunday night, when Hazel was invited behind the grill at a Japanese barbecue.


Jenna and I gave her a camera for her birthday, and like any kid she started out by taking some pretty goofy pictures.


She also began to explore distance and perspective.


Before we knew it, she was framing some excellent photographs.


She is obviously her mother’s daughter.


The camera even has a button that automatically frames Leo in different perspectives. I think Hazel will be using this with great impact as we continue our trip.



We are all looking forward to the day when Hazel publishes her own blog post here, sharing her favorite photos with the world. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.

Well, this post should give you a sense for what we’ve been up to for the last couple weeks. Our current thinking is that we will stay in Bali through March 18th for one last visa renewal, then head up to Kalimantan to hang out with the Orangutans before heading up to Singapore.

The luck keeps rolling, we keep learning new things, and we keep meeting new friends, in this case a dragonfly in Bali. She seems to like Sophie.