The remarkable
Dr. Dan

Here is an amazing story about a remarkably dedicated man who deserves our help. Dr. Dan Murphy runs a free clinic in East Timor that treats over 300 patients a day.
» To read more


Herb flavored vinegar makes great salads

Meggi’s fresh green salads always seem to get rave reviews, but the real secret is in the vinegar she uses.
» To learn more about her tricks...


Our secret to non-skid decks

Nothing looks better than freshly scrubbed wooden decks, the trick is how to keep them looking that way and also prevent the wood from drying out in the hot tropical sun.
» Read more

Dili, East Timor

Timor Lorosae

The anchorage is just off the heart of Dili's old portuguese style colonial buildings with the Palacio do Governo, and Casa Europa adding their old world charm to the scenic water front Esplanade.
» More about Dili.


Anchoring Nightmares

Those of you who have sailed with us know that ever since we were ripped off in Singapore over repairing our anchor winch it has been hard times with anchoring. That was not so bad when we were in shallow waters with a bigger crew, but now we are back at work, and short handed...
» Read more

Captain’s Log

May started with us preparing for the first leg on our yearly humanitarian missions. Budgets were tight as usual but for the first time in our history we had full diesel tanks and enough funds to keep them that way for the next 3 months.
» Reade about the people who made this possible.

On May 10th we set sail with three of us on board. The third was Joanne Har one of Singapore’s top web designers. Jo had no experience of long passages or bigger boats, but her “Can Do” attitude soon over came any worries.
» Learn more about Joanne.

The first leg of almost 1,000 miles was so peaceful it was almost boring. We had a few thunderstorms but aside from that there was hardly a puff of wind, so the most difficult daily task was to decide what's going to be for dinner. Considering it could have been much worse had the winds come against us, we were happy to be motoring in calm seas.

We spent just long enough in Bali to top up the fuel tanks and buy provisions. Both fuel and provisions are much more effordable there. On the forth day we slipped our mooring in Serangan Bayand headed out.
» Reade more about the route Bali - Timor Leste.

We arrived in East Timor on the 25th of May, 15 days out from Singapore. Two days later the South/East Monsoon set in against us, blowing solid from the East and putting a kink in our plans to continue on to Papua New Guinea, although we do have hopes of being able to reach the northern parts later in the year sailing from Banda.
The entrance to Dili harbor is pretty straight forward, but do take note that there are some nasty reefs behind
both the red and green entrance lights.
» For more about Dili harbor.

Checking in proved so simple I had
trouble understanding it was over.
» More about the arrival formalities.

Dr.Dan in his clinic

Dr. Dan and the Bairo Pite Clinic

As a young man doctor Dan Murphy spent six years working with Ceasar Chavez at a clinic for farm workers, where he was involved with legislation against pesticide abuse. He has also worked as a doctor in Mozambique, Laos, and Nicaragua. "Dr Dan" has been in East Timor since September 1998 providing free health care through his Bairo Pite Clinic, which he runs on an impossibly small budget.

Regularly putting in 12-16 hour days treating cases of tuberculosis (TB), malaria, dengue, pneumonia, diarrhea, hepatitis, encephalitis, yaws, leprosy and HIV he is also involved with preventive care and assists during births. Bairo Pite Clinic is one of the busiest health clinics in the country. They also operate a free medical laboratory and pharmacy.

Dr. Dan needs equipment and drugs for his clinic as well as long-term medical volunteers to help manage caseload and train health workers. His buildings are in serious need of care and attention. We have lists of his most urgent needs, several of which are well within the means of the average person. We will be happy to facilitate anyone wanting to donate larger equipment or supplies. If you have a clinic or hospital have a look in your storage rooms for equipment or supplies you no longer use.

Please send mail if you would like more information.

Making herb-flavored vinegars is easy and very satisfying... You will need several large mouth glass bottles with good tops. We use apothecary jars, as they look great and the tops seal well. Any laboratory supply house has them. Then select several base vinegars such as red wine, white wine, Balsamic, or even cider. Almost any vinegar will work, but avoid cheap chemical vinegars, always use only the best naturally made ones.

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Here white wine is the example, but the process is the same for all. Fill a bottle half way with white wine vinegar then add several stems of rosemary or a few stems of tarragon leaves. Top up the bottle to almost full and let it stand for several weeks. The longer you let it stand the richer the flavor becomes. With cider vinegar you can try a few sticks of cinnamon as well as your favorite herbs. As you get a better feel for this art you may even want to try blending different herbal vinegars for special occasions.

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Meggi usually has 4-5 types going giving her a wide variety to choose from. Once started top up each mix when it gets down below the 3/4 point. Depending on how often you top up the bottle, change the herbs for new ones. In the Balearic Islands of Spain good cooks have earthenware vinegar jars that have been in their families for hundreds of years, each kept constantly full with its own special blend passed down for generations.

Friends to the rescue with badly needed fuel

Fuel is one of our most difficult, problems. The places we go are not famous for cheap fuel. East Timor for example charges up to USD 1.35 per liter. The more isolated islands do not have fuel to sell. So we must carry as much as we can when we set out. This year the trip South was looking pretty grim until Scandinavian Bunkering Company of Singapore and racing skipper Andy Woodward and his friends who had taken up a collection to provide the missing fuel, came to our rescue almost at the same time.

A few days before we left I was walking down the street worrying about how to find fuel when I noticed a sign that said Scandinavian Bunkering PTE Ltd. The logo looked like three Norwegian Flags. Well, Vega was built in Norway so taking a deep breath I went in and at last found the office.

For Georina Lim, senior manager at Scandinavian Bunkering, that must have been a day to remember. Imagine her thoughts when I pitched up with my story about a 117 year old boat that does humanitarian assistance needing 750 liters of diesel as a donation, please. Much to her credit she kindly listened and looked at the magazine articles I had before asking some very direct questions.

I left with high hopes that were justified. She called a few days later and informed me to please see the Raffles marina manager to top up our tanks. That call came about 10 minutes before our friend Andy Woodward came by with the results of a whip around he and his friends had done to help us out with the fuel problem. Andy is an amazing guy even if he does get his kicks racing Tupperware around the marks.

Aproach Dili Harbour

Joanne Har is a Singaporean who first began working with the Vega team in 2007 and brings a wealth of technical expertise and training experience in graphic design, computer graphics, and web based media. Considered by many to be one of Singapore’s top designers Jo spends much of her year assisting with Vega’s projects both at a distance, and on board when we sail on our missions of mercy. Jo has helped us in Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Fiji, and East Timor where her experience, especially her training skills, have made a major impact. She has helped plan and develop local, national and regional campaigns for WHO and UNICEF, as well as others.

I took that great picture the third night out from Singapore when a thunderstorm hit on Jo’s watch. There she was all bundled up in foul weather gear, the rain blowing horizontal in 25-30 knots of wind, with a big grin on her face.

Map

Taking the southern route across the top of the Indian Ocean sailing just south of Komodo, Lombok, and Sumbawa riding with the long slow Indian ocean swells off our stern quarter we passed North of Sumba through the Sumba straits then along the southern coast of Flores to cross the Savu Sea. We made good time along our route until we came just south of Pulau Alor where strong currents often over 3 knots reduced our speed on the last day.

That trip will best be remembered for the power and raw natural beauty of this area. These are the islands that gave birth to the name "Ring of Fire", islands that soar from the ocean's greatest depths to amazing heights. A lingering smell of sulfur pervades the air as rugged coasts backed by volcanic peaks march along in a chain of islands, each more dramatic than the last. Smoldering craters gush smoke and steam high above crystal clear waters teaming with life in harsh contrast to the polluted waters we have so often seen in the North. Hundreds of dolphins, huge tuna, and even whales, one with a small calf swimming along side her, accompanied us along our route. Not a day went bye without dolphins doing their aerial acrobatics all around us. Some of the big tuna we saw had to be over a hundred kilos and the giant marlin jumping was one of the most impressive sights any of us had seen.

Aproach Dili Harbour

More about Dili harbor... C-Maps seem to be accurate here so you can follow them for the entry. There is a leading range at 136 degrees true between the marker lights, but it is a bit hard to see without binoculars and some patience.

The anchorage is fairly good holding in about 15 meters on a mud bottom. You will see the other boats to the east as you enter; there is a white ketch on a mooring that marks the eastern limit of the practical anchorage area. It is rather wise to not leave the boat un attended, although the boat boys from the local charter company do keep a fairly good eye on visiting boats and are glad to be helpful in other ways as well.

More about the arrival formalities...

First visit the marine police located in a white building looking a bit like a garage at the base of the old white steel pier to the east of the anchorage. (See Picture) They are friendly and very helpful. Once you have said hello and filled them in on where you are coming from and how long you expect to stay then it is off to the port at the S.W. of the anchorage and immigration. The visa on arrival for one month costs USD 30 and is a totally painless process. Once done with immigration that seems to be it for checking in. All of the officials we met were very friendly and helpful rather than obstructive. I imagine that could change rather quickly if you do not show the proper respect and consideration.

Aproach Dili Harbour

Tender landing beach in front of Casa Europa

Images by Timothy Stats

More about Dili, Timor Lorosae

The Esplanade is a popular meeting place for Dili's youth. East Timor has the youngest population in the world. On the other hand high un employment, few chances for training in productive professions or even agriculture make it difficult for the youth to find productive places in society.

The currency in East Timor is the US Dollar and anything else can be difficult to change so be sure to take a supply of dollars or you can use the bank ATM. There are no exchange shops so be warned Euro and Sing Dollars are good money, but no one here understands them. Dili super markets have a fantastic selection of goodies in the form of all your favorite brands imported from Oz, the US, and Europe.

If you are on a budget make sure you have plenty of provisions on board when you arrive. East Timor is a lovely place, but not a place to stock up on provisions, for that Indonesia is much cheaper. Fuel is also very expensive at between $0.91 and $1.30 per liter, so keep that in mind. There are many good restaurants with just about every type of cuisine imaginable available, but again not cheap.

Walking east along the beach front road for a few minutes brings you to the supermarket with the greatest selection, you will see a lot of expensive vegetable stalls across the street from it. This is beyond any doubt the most expensive with prices higher than in Oz or Singapore so beware. Before you get to that one you will see a small park if you take the first road to the right just at the park for about 50 meters you find "Cold Storage" another market with better prices. Even cheaper is "Landmark" supermarket. You will need a taxi for that one, but well worth it.

We far preferred shopping in the exotic local markets where traditionally styled farmers, from the mountains, most in cowboy hats and many still wearing swords, come to sell their produce. East Timor grows what is possibly the best wild mountain coffee in the world so watch for the beans in the markets. Wild honey is easily available and the "TAI's", beautifully handwoven local textiles, are often collectors pieces.

All in all, we really like East Timor as a destination and can strongly advise it as a stop over in the S.E. monsoon. It would be best to avoid it in the N. E monsoon as there is rough weather and cyclones are not un heard of here. It is also worth noting that we saw a crocodile between 3 - 4 meters swimming along peacefully just off the beach where the dinghies land, so swimming in the harbor might not be the best of ideas.

Our secret to non-skid decks

Freshly scrubbed decks are a pleasure to behold, but too much scrubbing can damage the wood by leaching out important natural oils and slowly wear away the wood. There are many expensive products that claim to protect your decks, but it has been our experience that they only give marginal results and do not last very long. Here is a formula we found in an old book on sailing ships and what ships officers should know. We have been trying it for some time now and can say it definitely works better than the expensive stuff in the fancy cans.

In a large pot heat natural distilled wood turpentine with bees wax in a ratio of about 3 parts turpentine to 1 part bee’s wax. Heat just enough to allow the turpentine to mix with the bees wax. The recipe also calls for “a small amount of pine rosin to be added when the mixture is warm”. We cannot find natural pine rosin so have yet to try that part. Let the mixture stand over night. The result is an easily applied paste.

Starting early on a hot day scrub down your decks with dish washing soap and stainless steel scouring pads. We usually make a ball out small pads that works just fine. Rinse well as you go along to carry away the dirt before it settles into the wood pores. Let dry until all the fresh water has evaporated. About the hottest part of the day apply the mixture liberally with rags rubbing it into the wood leaving excess evenly coating the surface. The heat of the sun drives it into the wood over 1-2 days leaving them well protected, easy to clean, and well water proofed. The wonderful scent of bee’s wax and turpentine over the next few days is an added bonus.

niknak

Anchoring Nightmares... Several years ago we replaced the burned out motor in our anchor winch with a hydraulic system that was supposed to be the best we could get. We spent a lot of money to do that. The man who did the work turned out to be a crook that conned us with a lot of expensive kit that could never work with our winch. Earlier this year in Singapore we contacted Fluid Power Ltd. They kindly came out to try and help us make it work.

They turned out to be as professional as the other guy was crooked. After taking the winch to their shop and carefully checking it, the truth emerged. It is not possible for that winch to be hydraulic. The only correct motors that will fit inside do not leave room for the hoses. Their honesty was the good news. The bad news was we did not have time before leaving to find a proper 12VDC electric motor to fit to the winch and get it working.

Now in areas with deep water this problem has become critical. In East Timor we have had to pull and reset the anchor 4 times. Pulling a 100 kg anchor on chain up from 20 meters is not at all funny. As it looks now we should be able to keep our commitments in Banda where we have a shallow anchoring place, but will be very restricted on where we can go while there. One thing is for sure this problem must be fixed when we get back to Singapore. How we can do that remains to be seen. If you have any ideas please let us know.

niknak

VEGA brass
Friends to the rescue

This time around we were lucky to have Joanne Har and her friends who volunteer to help us with the hundreds of things that needed doing so that VEGA could look her best for the show. Not the least of those jobs was touching up the brass work, a task the girls attacked with gusto and amidst a lot of joking made short work of. The day ended with one of Meggi’s spaghetti dinners on the fore deck followed by most of the crew reclining in the bowsprite net where many a tale was told under the stars. Judging by the empty tin count we must have had a really good time.