After another night in the dorm, we are ready for our sea voyage up to the further reaches of Raja Ampat, with visits to nesting sites of the endangered turtles we have come to see.
Our vessel the Putiraja appears on the horizon. She is a magnificent clipper which used to carry cargo including buffaloes around the archipelago. She’s now owned and operated by Josephine, a very rare creature in Indonesian waters – a female captain. Her partner, Ken, is the deck hand and general fixer-upper, though from time he acts as second officer on the bridge. Fortunately there is no remaining trace of the buffaloes, and the Putiraja has been refitted as a dive boat with accommodation.
Over breakfast there has been a long and involved discussion regarding our sleeping arrangements. There are five cabins: four with a double bunk plus a single above, and one with two single bunks. All are equipped with en suite shower and toilet. Question is: who will sleep where? And with whom?
No-one wants a snorer in their cabin, and during our dorm bunking we have discovered that we have some heavy duty snorers, and not just the men. There is much negotiation, and W and I have our sleeping arrangements re-arranged to include a delightful roomie (who doesn’t snore). The other two men end up in the two-bunk cabin, and the rest are sorted into the three remaining ones. My dearest friend (MDF) (the reason I am here at all) is bedded down with the snorers – she won’t get much sleep on this voyage!
As it happens, I am at the head of the line when the tender sets off with the baggage, so three of us (MDF, W and I) set off in the first tender, and sort the problem– by the time the rest arrive, their bags are already in their cabins, so there is no room for more argy bargy about which cabin is better or worse. One less thing to negotiate is good with me.
Once people have settled in and decided who is going to share a bunk with whom, we assemble on deck to get the briefing on the vessel. Ken takes us through things we need to know: they have a reverse osmosis system for desalinating water, so we shouldn’t worry about fresh water for showers and washing. He has a washing machine on board, and will be able to do laundry for us. That’s a relief, because in the interests of travelling light, and including snorkel gear in our luggage, we’ve had to sacrifice changes of clothes. Loo paper is ok down the toilet, which is a welcome relief after our experiences with the arrangements in Cuba. The boat has a generator, and we will have access to 220V power for recharging camera batteries etc. The boat is set up for scuba diving (which we won’t be doing) and there are tanks all over the stern.
Before too long we’ve weighed anchor and are motoring off. It is a clipper, but putting up and managing sails is a serious business, and we will have a more predictable journey if we don’t rely on the trade winds. Somehow that seems a shame, because she would be magnificent under sail, but we are on a mission, with places to go, turtles to see and things to do.
In a short while we are served supper on deck – a magnificent Indonesian feast. And not much after that it’s time to climb into bunks, wrap ourselves in duvets and be rocked to sleep. In case you’re wondering about the duvets when I’ve spent so much time referring to the humid heat, the cabins all have an A/C unit, and after a few hours one feels almost chilly, so the duvet is a blessing.