Story of Dragons

The highlights of our passage from Kupang to Rinca Island were being able to sail for more than 50% of the way, and finding out we would have to stop using our starboard engine. We had light winds, but a favorable 2.5 knot current most of the way. So, it was worth sailing even when only making 3 knots through the water – because we were still making 5.5 knots toward our destination with the current.

I noticed our starboard engine was warm after we ran it for a short while to get around an island leaving Kupang. I checked and no raw water was coming out. A little further investigation and I quickly determined that the raw water impeller was bad. Unfortunately, in digging through our spares I realized we had no spares on board. We can now only use the starboard engine for 4-5 minutes or it will over heat. Since our port engine’s impeller had the same number of hours on it, we were going to need to be nice to our port engine. I used Sailmail to send an E-mail to our supplier of Yanmar parts and asked them to ship us 4 new impellers to our Florida mail service. I also E-mailed my friend Andy in North Carolina to pay them. We’ll have the parts shipped to Bali later.

We arrived after just over two days of sailing/motoring and only had to dodge a few fishing boats. We found out later that other sailors on that route also had to dodge large bamboo fishing traps and one boat we met actually collided with one at night! No lights on these things…we were lucky!

We were headed for the south anchorage of Rinca (pronounced rin-cha) in the late afternoon. It was a spectacular arrival with huge cliffs, and the anchorage is in an inlet that is a semi-circle with an island in the middle. All with tall volcanic derived geography and jungle vegetation on shore. Plenty of depth to the water in the inlet and very calm. We anchored east of some big rocks in a beach all to ourselves. There were two big Indonesian tourist dive boats in the next anchorage using the only two moorings there. We were anchored only maybe 50 meters from the beach. We saw monkeys and a boar before it got dark. As we were arriving, an American couple from a cruising sailboat called Restless drove over on their dinghy. They were anchored on the far side of the inlet. We only briefly spoke to them as they had to get back to their boat with something cooking. We watched for dragons but didn’t see any in the evening. We did see a beautiful moon rise above the cliffs a few minutes later.

The next morning I was up early as usual and saw monkeys and a boar on the beach. The monkeys were soon all over the rocks eating sea life. A bit later, I saw a moving log on the beach – no it was a dragon! I watched him trundle along the beach and could see his big (foot long) yellow tongue coming out constantly. He stuck his head in the air at one point and I thought he was maybe taking care of toilet business. Later I found out they do that to soak up sun.

Karen got up and saw another dragon later. We watched an eagle flying around, and later another eagle who stayed near a boar hoping the boar would stir up some dinner. And, we continued watching several monkeys on the beach as well. It was our own private wild zoo!

A bit later, I went in the dinghy to check on Restless. Turns out they were just pulling up their anchor and were thinking to go to Komodo to see dragons. I told them I had heard from other cruisers that the Rinca ranger station on the north side is better to see the dragons. After showing them on the map, they said they would consider going there instead. I went back to our boat and discussed with Karen and we decided to leave now. So, we called Restless on the radio and agreed to both go to the ranger station – about 23 miles away.

We had an interesting sail to the ranger station. We weren’t sure about the currents, but we heard they can be quite challenging. Fortunately for us, we couldn’t have planned it better. We had positive currents with us of 2.5 knots much of the way, and on the NW side we actually had 5.5 knots with us for a while! We managed to sail much of the way and it was quite fun sailing actually.

Tahina got to the ranger station first – way down a bay into a kind of river mouth. It looked a little crowded, so we opted to try and go back out and look for a spot. Restless went on in and anchored. We couldn’t find a good spot, so we went in as well and it turned out there was room in there – although we re-anchored after a tourist boat left later.

Mark and I went ashore to visit the ranger station and see about getting a guide in the morning. While visiting the station we saw lots of monkeys. We also bought Bintang beer and it was pretty good stuff! It was going to cost us about $53 for both crews, a guide, park fees, and to pay for anchoring over night. This included two cameras as well. Restless ended up going back in the evening and saw dragons at the station as well, they also spotted a water buffalo in the water near our anchorage!

The next morning, we did our guided tour. We saw several dragons at the ranger station kitchen. They don’t feed them, but the dragons smell the food and show up anyway. On the walk, we saw several dragon nests – each with a female dragon guarding the nest. They only guard the nests for the first three months – after that, the dragon eggs and babies are on their own. The baby dragons immediately go up trees after hatching and live in the trees for 2-3 years. We also found out the dragons only eat about once a month – but, they can eat 40 KILOGRAMS of meat at once. They eat any kind of meat they can find: water buffalo, deer, monkeys, even humans. Our guide kept a “magic” stick to fend them off if they got too aggressive. We saw a few monkeys in the wild, but no water buffalo on the hike. Funny that we saw more wildlife at the station than on the walk really. Our guide was nice though and answered most of our questions.

View full-sized with descriptions

After our hike we went back and raised anchor and made our way to the next major town of Labuan Bajo. More about that later. For now, enjoy the pictures of our pictures of Rinca, the dragon and other wildlife we saw. It was an amazing experience. We were especially glad to have met Mark and Brandy on s/v Restless to share this experience with.

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7 Responses to Story of Dragons

  1. Mike Pegg says:

    Great post Frank, I’ve only seen the dragons in the Toronto Zoo before. Great shots of them and it looked like a great stop. Hope all is well with you!

  2. nanag says:

    I loved the pictures! Glad things are going well. How is your eye? When will you be in Singapore? Will you be coming home for Thanksgiving?

  3. Kerry Mettert says:

    Was disappointed to see so much plastic debris on the shores. Do you find this most places you visit? The dragon photos were nicely done! This would be one of my stops too if I were sailing.

    • Frank Taylor says:

      @Kerry Mettert: Excellent point you brought up. I had intended to at least mention this in the blog post or dedicate a blog post to it. There are a lot of people in Indonesia, and its a third-world country. There are not enough controls in the infrastructure, and a lot of trash finds it way into the sea. The south anchorage of Rincha is in a natural “chute” for picking up trash. I suspect they actually pick up the trash periodically, or there would be even larger amounts of it there. We see a lot of trash as we make our passages between islands here, and a lot on the beaches as well. It’s horrible isn’t it?

  4. Marlene says:

    I’m so happy I found your blog! You are living my dream!

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