Arriving in a new country on a boat was such a weird anticlimactic feeling. In the past when I’ve travelled overseas it has always been by plane. There is a familiar sequence of events that always occurs that tells you, your headed off into another world.
You go to the airport, you say your excited goodbyes, you board the plane, you sit in that cold recycled fart air for hours, wrestling your chair for a comfortable position but you always lose. Watching everyone around you who gets up to use the shoe box toilet in front, hoping to catch a pair of mile high contenders but never do. Flicking through the lame ‘rom coms’ on the little telly in front, reluctantly giving in and watching one and shamefully enjoying it. Then catching yourself accidentally laughing outside your head and openly smiling at the little screen. Quickly stopping when you remember everyone around you can see what you’re doing and what you’re watching. Your embarrassment only topped by your annoyance at old mate in front of you who decides to recline his chair all the way back right in the middle of the good bit. Forcing you to become the wanker and do the same and so starting the domino effect of reclined chairs. Excitement levels hitting an all time high as you feel the plane jolt as the wheels touch down in the foreign land. Only to then test the patience one last time standing there waiting as your bag fails to appear on the luggage carousel. Clearing the daunting customs hoping no drugs have magically appeared in your boogie board. Finally when you get the green light and your allowed to step outside you get hit in the face by the sudden climate change. Standing there with a massive grin on your face either sweating your balls off or freezing your tits off. That’s when you know, yep I’m not in Australia anymore.
Motoring into the harbour of Kupang had nothing remotely like that. It was absolutely anticlimactic. With the exception of crossing paths with one small suspect Asian ferry looking type of boat about 200 nautical miles from where it should be, headed in the opposite direction to us (towards Australia hmmmm). It was a pretty uneventful trip. The first puff of air that filled the sails as we sailed out of Darwin disappeared within a quick few hours on the first day. Soon it was both engines down, full blast roaring along flat seas.
The sensor for the auto pilot had been replaced since it shit itself on the trip to Darwin but Andre still had not calibrated it right, so once again it didn’t want to cooperate and we were without an auto pilot. Four hours at a time trapped at the helm hand steering across the flat sea with the two motors screaming in your ears, it become pretty monotonous pretty damn fast. It was just four long days and three sleepless nights spent wishing to be there already. Not the elegant and romantic imagery of “sailing” to another country I had imagined in my head.
We arrived about 4pm in the afternoon on Tuesday 29th July 2014, to our surprise we were one of the first out of the 50 boats. Andre loves telling that story now,
“the morning we left Australia we went a shore and had a massive breakfast [grr, while I scrubbed the deck] so we were the very last ones to cross the starting line but we were like the 8th boat to make it to Kupang! Yeah we are a fast boat blah blah blah…”.
I roll my eyes every time he tells this story now. It’s true the STNT is a really fast boat in the right winds. But there was no wind. We motored the whole bloody way, burning a shitload of fuel, it’s hardly some great feat of achievement. Other boats smartly took their time and saved the fuel. In truth I think we were around the 15th boat to arrive but I’ve slowly witnessed Andres exaggeration drop it to top ten. It will be top five by the end of the rally.
Sitting on the boat that evening, trapped for another day, unable to go ashore because we had arrived too late to have customs come and clear us for entry, was such a surreal feeling. All the familiarities of travelling overseas that I knew were nonexistent. There was no punch in the face by a sudden climate change, I had just slowly travelled through it and was already acclimatised. I couldn’t even be certain I was in an Asian country. My eyes were lying to me, from the harbour the shore looked beautiful and clean. Surrounded by expensive super yachts and cruise boats with exotic architecture lining the shore. This was not the Asia I knew from travelling Vietnam and Thailand. If it wasn’t for the familiar sounds; the honking of the horns, that strange unidentifiable party music blasting from the shore, together with the occasional dug out wooden motor boat cruising past with over excited grinning locals smoking on cigarettes, I could have almost convinced myself we had somehow ended up in some developed european country and not third world Indo. (This feeling was short-lived as when we eventually made it to shore. The rubbish and smell was no longer hidden by distance. It was most definitely Asia).
The next day was my first introduction to Indonesian organisation. All morning spent counting the hours waiting, so close to touching down in a new country yet still so far away. It wasnt until sometime after lunch that the customs boat finally boarded the STNT. In Darwin, I had been shit frightened of even letting Kathy buy me some multivitamins for engery for the trip. No way was I taking an opened container of random ‘drugs’ into Indonesia. Not after all the stories it has of people getting locked up for nothing. A complete unneeded concern. I could have had a cabin full of heroine and we would have got away with it. They didn’t even find Hazel’s tressure chest of prescription drugs. The first lady plonking herself down on it to fill out the official forms and never once looking at what she was sitting on. They had a nip of Andre’s whiskey and confiscated a packet of Hazel’s cigarettes and were gone without ever even stepping foot down inside my hull. Thorough job.
Free to go to shore, I didn’t waste anytime, the nudists were rounded up and loaded into the dinghy and I was gone. Sitting up in the front of the dinghy grinning like a 12 year old girl at Justin Bieber concert. I had been waiting for this moment for two years. Sacrificing friendships and relationships, working my ass off and missing out on so many good times and memories. Now it was finally my turn to receive the benefits of all that self punishment. Stepping from the dinghy and putting my feet down on Indonesian soil bought such an immediate strong feeling of satisfaction. I had done it, I had made it out of Australia without flying. Fuck Yeah.