The Bay of Grey

The days flew past like the wind through our sails. Hours morphed in figures of clouds beyond the hazzy horizon, while the sun was remorselessly cooking the deck. Sweat ran down our skin like the waves around the ship. Movement ceased to a standstill, when we hadn’t even reached the open pacific yet. Boats can be small.

Sailing around Weigeo

Just the day before, sailing around Weigeo, we had good wind that helped us around. At times in gusts we reached up to 10 knots. It is these moments that stand out clear and bright in my memories like a bucket of ice water. The wind in our smiles left us „Bright eyed and bushy tailed“, as Sherry would put it. She had heard this phrase from her mother, as had I from mine. Must be some sort of mother thing; a motivational tool perhaps, to help you stand up… all good to me, as long as mothers do not mistake the bucket for motivation.

The Bay of Grey

Towards the afternoon, we reached a wide bay on the northern shores of Weigeo. It would become our last stop, before we would fly our sails northwards, heading to the thousand islands of the Pacific. I called her: The Bay of Grey. And no, it wasn’t her fault, but only because of a sky burdened with heavy clouds.

Nevertheless, it was a gentle bay with calm waters and a small village in its centre, surrounded by coconut trees. And there was joy here to be found, when we befriended some construction workers that were building a massive jetty with a connected road to get inland.

These type of project always leave me with much concern and worries. Surely, the local population is happy that civilisation finally also reaches their shores, but at what price?

Remote land development

Infrastructural projects of this size and in areas as remote as here, are not endeavoured free of additional thoughts of profit. With respect to its location next to the water and in absence of other resources, the only remaining reason for this project is the logging of the forest. For fisheries one doesn’t need a road that leads into uninhabited land.

Logging on the other hand, possibly with the additional aim to plant mono-cultures of oil palms, lead to greatly increased stress-levels for the surrounding coral reefs. The now missing and formerly stabilising roots of the forest, increase the load of sediments and nutrients that runs off into the sea with every single rain. Clear, nutrient depleted waters, as corals prefer, are polluted, while stress-levels rise. This doesn’t even consider the direct loss of local biodiversity from logging the forest. Nobody knows how many species have already been lost because of this, is unknown, because they have never been discovered and described – not even starting about the loss of potentially new drugs for medical purposes. More than half of our medicines derives from natural products.

 In the end, the decision lays with the people of Raja Ampat and their democratically elected government. Now that humans usually vote on basis of short-sighted, human motives, is obvious and constitutes the biggest, inherent problem of democracy vs. nature – human vs. its own survival, in fact.

Water management

At this point in time, also the “Soggy Paws” and her crew had rather human problems. In the last three days, we had almost used up our entire water reserves. The tanks had to be filled. In sight of water rationing during a multi-day passage on a sun struck deck in the middle of the Pacific, we began the planing for the day.

Finally, it was decided to send Claudia and me ashore to find water, while Sherry and Dave remained on board to fix other parts of the boat. The whole story of living and sailing on a boat is actually a whole lot less romantic as most people think and essentially a story of constantly fixing your boat.

In any case, we set off with the dinghy just a little later, with us on board six large jugs and four equally large buckets. Following Dave’s suggestion we headed towards the construction site first. Where there are humans, there is a need for drinkable water. For that very reason, we had also brought some cookies, just in case there’d arise a need to “bribing” the workers into showing us their source of water. Dave couldn’t have had a better idea. We struck gold.

Not a hundred metres next to their jetty, a small stream was flowing into the bay. It was only blocked by a tree that had fallen right across its mouth. We could even move the dinghy further inside into a pond that sat right beneath a series of rocks with intermingled pools over which the water cascaded down in small waterfalls. Collecting the water from these pools was a piece of cake, especially because we were helped by the construction workers. And on top, it tasted deliciously.

After filling everything, we returned gloriously to the boat, filled up the tanks and returned for a second round. We knew that every drop would count in the days to come.

Upon collecting the second round of water, we took the opportunity to take a bath in one of the pools. Quite cold, but in the humid steaming air of Weigeo, a welcome refreshment.

Dolphins in the Bay

During the afternoon, Claudia spotted dolphins at the end of the bay, where they were spiralling out of the water and slapping the surface with their powerful tail fins. We could hear them a kilometre away! They were a large pack of spinner dolphins.
When Claudia finally reached them they played hide and seek with her. Whenever she thought to get closer to them, they’d jet of in the opposite direction, cycle her or simply dive deeper. Eventually however, she did spot a small scouting group that had come around to check her out. Spinner dolphins do this to gain insight into possible threats and dangers without compromising the safety of the entire pack; quite obviously the behavioural trait of an intelligent species. I wonder what the report back to the group will look or sound like.

For the evening I had already established the habit of carefully placing two refreshing Bintang beers in the freezer. Now they were waiting for me ice cold and covered in sparkling stars of anticipation. For the next day we had the first small passage of our route on the schedule that would bring us to the mysterious islands of Ayu.

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