Darwin to Ambon
Mr Wayne Huxley, Organiser of the Darwin
to Ambon Race, plans for a spinnaker start to the 600nm event
from Stokes Hill Wharf. The celebrations are expected to start
about 5 days later to allow for all competing boats to arrive
in Ambon. The Ambonese host of next year's race, Mrs Hellen DeLima,
has a great interest in the race,as her late husband, Mr Sandy
DeLima, sailed in the race for 14 years before passing away in
1997. She plans to host another entertainment package for the
2007 race, and has recruited the local Tourism agencies to offer
attractive packages for diving and travelling around Ambon and
the other spice islands.
As a regional effort, the local governments of Halmahera, Tidore,
and Ternate are keen to have boats visit and are in discussion
with the Ambon race organizers to offer further exposure to the
area which has potentially extensive cruising grounds.
The restart of the Darwin to Ambon Race in 2007 will re-open
the doors to cruising and racing yachts to explore this region.
The Mollucas have suffered from poor tourism since the riots
in 1999, and now that peace is restored, the regional tourism
authorities are making a big effort to attract the boats back
again. When work commitments prevail, and time is on our side,
we would have no hesitation to cruise this area again.
Cruising Guide to the Taninbar Islands
by Jan Carter
Items for Remote Islands
The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia by Nico de Jonge and Toos
Ambon: Island of Mist by Courtney Harrison
Ambon: Island of Spices by Shirley Deane
Spices: The Story of Indonesia's Spice Trade by Joanna Hall Brierley
Lonely Planet: Indonesia
Cruising Guide to SE Asia Volume 2
More Information on Cruising
Swimming goggles and flippers
Nail polish and lipstick
Indonesian-English dictionaries/phrase books
Empty bottles for storage
Fishing hooks and line
Balls and children's toys
To Join the rally or Race;
For more information visit www.darwinambonrace.com.au
or lodge and expression of interest at firstname.lastname@example.org
and Cruising Ambon and the Mollucas
Story & Photos by Cathy
Ellingsen & Gavin Gillett, SY "Imagination"
This year 2006, four Darwin cruisers traveled
to Ambon to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Darwin to
Ambon Yacht Race and to explore the cruising opportunities of
the Mollucas region. The race was suspended after 1998 when sectarian
violence threatened security in the area. Sailing vessels, "Imagination",
"Cruise Missile", "Ocean Road", and "Blood
Sweat and Beers" took up the invitation of the Ambonese
local and government authorities to attend the anniversary celebrations
this year, and as a show of faith for the recommencement of Darwin
to Ambon Yacht Race next year. On July 21st 2007, the Dinah Beach
Yacht Club will host the race, and, as in previous events, there
will be a Monohull, Multihull and Cruising division. Many cruisers
used the event in the past as an opportunity to process their
travel documents to journey onwards through Indonesia and next
year offers local and international participants the option of
cruising in company through the magical Mollucas.
Our journey this year started in July 2006,
when 18 boats sailed the 295nm to the Taninbar Islands, Indonesia
for the 4th Annual Sail Saumlaki Rally. This rally has been popular
amongst local Darwin yachts and offers a close option for cruising
in company in Indonesia. After five days of warm Taninbarese
hospitality and entertainment, the yachts left Saumlaki Harbour
for a few weeks of cruising, and most of these returned to Darwin
by the end of August. Our onward journey to Ambon was all downwind
sailing taking us through the 4500m deep Banda Sea and past the
towering volcanic islands of Nila, and Serua on to Ambon. After
more festivities in Ambon, we returned to Darwin via Banda, Nila
and Babar Islands.
The small town of Saumlaki is on the south-eastern
aspect of the main island of Yamdena. It is the capital of the
Taninbar group and it's harbour has a great anchorage just beyond
a coral shelf. This centre is not an official port of entry to
Indonesia, but as part of the rally, Ambon officials were brought
here to complete clearing in and out
formalities. Access to shore was via the Yacht friendly Hotel
Harupan Indah. The hotel has a large verandah/bar area stretching
across the coral shelf and we merely tied our dinghies up to
this and climbed the ladder to be received warmly by guides and
hotel staff. The hotel staff are most helpful with organizing
everything from motorbike hire to the purchase of artifacts,
and the food and drink is well priced and of good quality.
The Taninbars are predominately Christian, and this is reflected
in a number of huge statues at Olilit, positioned on a high point
overlooking the town and affording great views of the ocean and
reefs. There are many gorgeous beaches and friendly villages
to visit as day trips from Saumlaki via bus or motorbike, particularly
Tumbur for wood carvings, and Sangliat Dol for the Megalith stone
Joyce Edmunds, of SV "Pelican 2", a veteran local Darwin
cruiser who has spent much time cruising the Taninbars, recommends
a number of great anchorages south and west of Saumlaki including
Pulau Nastabun, Cape Jasi, Wailutu and Wotap. When visiting villages,
ensure to follow Indonesian custom and visit the headman (kepala
desa) first. The snorkeling is beautiful and safe swimming in
the ocean a welcome change from that of the potentially dangerous
On 4th August, 2006, we arrived at Amahusu
Beach, the official finish line of the Race. The united two peninsulas
that comprise the island of Ambon are mountainous and tropical,
and the entrance to the harbour can be wild in strong winds.
The anchorage here, and in many of the islands of this region,
is deep with a rapid drop off so we dropped the pick in 25m on
a coral and rubble bottom, with a stern line ashore. The squalls
and bullets coming across the mountains from the south-east,
put a strain on the holding power of the anchor with some boats
dragging during our stay.
A small stony beach beside the Hotel Tirta Kencana was a secure
place to beach the dinghy with many children to help. The Hotel
has good accommodation and meals, does laundry and exchanges
money, of good quality uncreased notes only. Clearing in formalities
were painless, as the officials were keen to make our stay pleasant
to encourage future yachting tourism.
Over the next 5 days, our group of eleven Australian yachties
were treated royally by the Ambonese who were keen to demonstrate
that security had returned to the island.
Ambon Island was a centre of the European spice trade dating
back to the 1500's which saw this region being occupied by the
Portugese, Dutch, Spanish and English at various times. Prior
to this era, the Romans, Indians and Chinese were involved with
established trade caravan routes via the Persian Gulf by 1st
century AD. Cloves, indigenous to the islands of Ternate and
Tidore, and Nutmeg, indigenous to the Banda Islands were the
valued spices of the Mollucas and their demand in Europe made
them literally worth their weight in gold. Pepper and Cinnamon
were other highly sought after spices from other islands in Indonesia,
which strengthened the European presence.
The harbour of Hitu on the north coast of Ambon Island was the
main harbour during the early days of the European spice trade.
Morgan Williams, previous racer/cruiser of the region, says that
during the South West Monsoon, this harbour has provided a good
anchorage and was used by many yachts cruising onwards after
the race. He also recommends the anchorage near Hila, west of
Further up Ambon Harbour, near the city is Halong, which used
to be the original finish line of the race. It is now the site
of the Indonesian Naval Base, but yachts could potentially moor
here with good holding.
Other interesting sights are the SiwaLima Museum, Doolan's War
Memorial, and the Commonwealth War Cemetary, the resting place
of Australia's Gull Force. Most of these soldiers were captured
by the Japanese in 1942, with only 30% surviving the war. Australians
are highly regarded by the Ambonese, and close links between
Ambon and Australia still exist today because of this war experience.
The exquisitely maintained tropical gardens of the cemetary are
a fitting memorial to these men.
Ambon is also renowned the diving on its sea gardens.The timber
craftsmen of Ambon are highly skilled and in past races, yachties
would make use of these tradesmen to beautify their boats with
exquisite timber work. The local markets were huge and full of
clothing stalls, tailors, tropical fruits, asian vegetables and
fish. Drinking water is cheap and readily available, but we also
collected water from a local Amahusu store. There are many places
to eat, but Halim's Restoran in the city comes highly recommended.
It is a traditional "yachtie" hangout with great Indonesian
food and drink, and displays memorabilia from the race's heyday.
Although, this time our small rally did
not pass through these islands, they have a good cruising reputation.
Dene Cook of SV "Savannah", eight times Darwin to Ambon
race participant, always cruised back to Darwin over 3-4 weeks.
He says the easiest passage is to make as much "easting"
as possible, by travelling across the northern coast of Ambon
and anchoring on the north aspects of the Lease group, namely
Haruku, Saparua and Nusa Laut, then to Banda and the Kei islands.
From the Kei's, boats returning to Darwin can run home along
the west coast of Yamdena and then south to round Cape Fourcroy
on Bathurst Island.
As all members of our group had intended
to return to Darwin, on 9th August we headed directly to Banda
Neira. The Banda Sea, whilst in our favour on the downwind leg
with westerly currents, was against us and very confused. This
was quite challenging taking between 30-35 hours to cross the
120 miles to our destination. The Banda Islands, despite being
so tiny on the charts, are full of European History related to
the spice trade. Evidence of this is found all over the islands,
but especially in Banda Neira, the capital, where the Belgica
and Nassau Dutch Forts are found. Nutmeg plantations are still
found here and visits can be arranged. Interestingly, Run Island
was swapped for Manhattan Island by the British, so the Dutch
could increase its spice monopoly.
Mooring was the same as Amahusu, but in the middle of town. The
Harbourmaster summoned the boat skippers to complete formalities
and immediately requested large sums of money, but eventually
this was bartered down with help from the inevitable agent. The
welcoming Maulana Hotel is right on the water and encouraged
us to use their dinghy dock, the hotel facilities, and arranged
our resupply of fuel and water. Walking over 16th Century Cannons
in the streets, we explored the museum, historic buildings and
the extraordinary forts. We spent a few nights on the swing in
front of Banda Besar before continuing with the journey home.
The anchorage here was of good holding despite a strong current,
and extremely picturesque with a misty mountain backdrop. We
were entertained by passing ferries, and villagers in canoes
selling antique bottles and coins.
This lovely isolated volcanic island boasts
a lovely south easterly anchorage, but unfortunately we had a
bit of swell in the prevailing easterlies at the time of our
visit. This did not spoil the idyllic tropical beauty and we
spent a few nights having sundowners on one of the pretty uninhabitated
beaches. There were a few fishing families living on other beaches
this side of the island. They were curious and friendly and they
were grateful to receive our donated items before we left.
A few of the boats pulled in at the capital,
Tepa for repairs and fuel where the locals were friendly and
keen to help. Babar is also a volcanic island, but the anchorage
was reported to be of good holding. Beaurocracy can be a tiresome
experience in most Indonesian Ports, and Tepa did not disappoint.
However, the officials were so happy that they had some foreign
visitors to their island, that they did not impose any fees.
Kei and Aru Islands
These islands are relatively unexplored
by cruisers, but potentially offer great cruising. The people
of the Kei Islands have a reputation of being excellent boat
builders, and the Aru Islands are famous for their Birds of Paradise.
Both these commodities were traded in Banda prior to the European's
arrival. The Kei's are mostly mountainous and the Aru's very
flat, but both groups have shoaling surrounds which makes for
better anchoring than some of the volcanic islands. Infrequently,
catabatic winds can be experienced in the Kei's, and John Dowell
of SV "Emma Ward" reported gusts of up to 70 knots
during his visit.