1991 Solomon Islands (South-West Pacific) Notes from Ships Logs
The Solomon Islands (arrival in November 1990) continued to provide an exclusive cruising area with safe anchorages, beautiful clear waters for swimming, snorkelling and diving. An unparalleled combination of pristine reef, abundant fish life and myriad of amazingly preserved World War II wrecks. The southernmost of the Solomon Island chain is located at 11 degrees south and whilst a few tropical depressions form, their development into more fierce tropical cyclones occurs further south. Amongst a nation of people who were largely friendly and helpful, a scattering of expatriates and a small cruising community, the end of the 1990-1991 South-West Pacific cyclone season was pleasantly awaited until departure for Australia in April 1991.
Week 31st December 1990 - 6th January 1991 Guadalcanal to Western Province (New Georgia Is)
Sailed from Guadalcanal Island (Honiara) to Morovo Lagoon New Georgia Island (Mbili) on Christmas Day arriving Mbili the following day. Inundated with carvers wanting to sell their Kerosene wood and Ebony carvings. Purchased a few (half trade - half purchase) but generally too expensive for cruising yachties. Similar at Telina vilage halfway up Morovo Lagoon. Caught a few fish trolling behind the zodiac inflatable at dusk in the Mbili passage. On up to Uipi Resort for New Years Eve. "Lee Breeze" (Mike & Sue Peters) ex Nelson NZ joined us having sailed up from Honiara. Did a night dive at Uipi, not particularly interesting. Motored onto Sesaghane village (more carvings) and then onto Seghe village between New Georgia and Vangunu Is where we dived (4-1-91) on an intact WW II US twin-tailed fighter plane in 20' of clear water off the end of Seghe airstrip, then left for Mbureho village (more carvings, where we spent the weekend.
7th - 13th January 1991 Western Province (New Georgia Is)
Yamaha 9.9hp outboard motor was reassembled by a local on the mud floor of a house at Mbareho after it was carried in parts all the way from Nelson in July. Despite the advice of the workshop in Nelson who said it was unserviceable, a few hours work by the informed local and Eureka it ran!! (And continued, apart from one hiccup at Gizo, for another 10 years until sold in Thailand in 2001). We now rush around at great speed compared to previous Suzuki 2hp progress. Left Mbareho for Rinjenje Is (Nono Lagoon) on 8-1-91. A gale blew up in the middle of the night and we moved in the darkness (thanks to Radar) from the lee shore we found ourselves on to a new sheltered anchorage. "Lee Breeze" stayed and ended on the reef. It took all the next day to get her finally off thanks to a tow from Island trader "Sakile". Much pounding on the reef and trauma for Mike and Sue but fortunately "Lee Breeze" is a steel boat and she only suffered underwater with bent steel plates and loss of paint. It would have been a terminal grounding for a wooden or fibreglass craft. We motored onto Viru Harbour on 11-1-91 in the usual windless conditions in temperatures of 29-31C and 65-80% humidity. Nights were cool thanks to a land breeze off the mountains of New Georgia. We visited yacht "Alfran" left in Viru by American owner Rick. She was very lonely and cockroach infested. Debbie and Jo had previously sailed on "Alfran" from Cairns to Papua New Guinea amid much drama which resulted in Debbie returning to Australia and finding a berth on "Star of the West". Jo had continued to Viru with Rick then she joined us in December 1990 in Honiara.
14th - 20th January 1991 New Georgia Island to Rendova to Gizo
We left Viru on 14-1-91for Rendova Harbour and JK Kennedy Memorial via village of Mburuku (more carvings). Scrubbed the hull of weed and barnacles (1st time since Whitsunday Is in Australia) and improved speed by 50%! Left Rendova for Gizo on 19/01/91, motoring all day with "Lee Breeze". Our Mercedes engine starter motor which was drowned in diesel before the Cairns Honiara trip and a dowse of saltwater in Morovo Lagoon is indicating that it is about to expire which prompted sailing direct to Gizo rather than via Munda and Blackett Strait.
Gizo, the starter motor did expire but was repaired on what is now becoming familiar, a mud floor workshop, with hammer, chisel and other similar sophisticated equipment, however it works! Debi & Jo flew off to Honiara on 24/01/91 to seek flights to Philipines, USA or Australia still undecided. Had enjoyed their company. Seddon sent a much appreciated parcel of goodies from Australia which included Drum tobacco and rolling machine as he hadn't been convinced of my hand rolling prowess. Began and finished an Experienced Divers Openwater I Scuba diving course with Tim (an Aussie, Gizo based Dive Instructor).
Week 28th January - 3rd February 1991
Gizo, began and finished Advanced Scuba Diving Course which included moving sunken WW II mooring blocks across the harbour buoyed with 44 gallon drums. Gizo harbour has about 8 yachts at anchor awaiting the end of the cyclone season. Quite festive with barbeques and Pictionary activities at Gizo Club or Hotel. Gizo is a nice spot with all facilities close at hand. The lagoon is dotted with palm trees on small sandy islands. An excellent variety of diving from pristine coral to large schools of pelagic fish (including sharks) to WW II shipwrecks and debris. Weather is quite stable 28-30C, with high humidity and afternoon thunderstorms.
Week 4th - 10th February 1991
Gizo, mostly diving with Glenn and Claudia from yacht "Moutai" ex Singapore. Accompanied by Maria a New Zealand woman and ethnologist with the Solomon Islands National Museum in Honiara.
Week 11th - 17th February 1991
Still in Gizo! Dived on "Toa Maru" a 400 foot Japanese freighter torpedoed in WW II and sunk adjacent to Gizo in 30-120 feet of water. Spectacular dive with tanks, trucks, motor bikes, cement, fuel drums and ammunition. Contracted malaria on 12th February and underwent 3 day course from hell! Not very pleasant. Weight dropped from +90kgs to 82kgs. Nursed by Maria. Took "Star of the West" to Mbanbanga Island on 16th February and on 17th February the engine starter motor gave up the ghost again whilst attempting to return to Gizo. Maria departed for Honiara.
Week 18th - 24th February 1991
Towed back to Gizo in windless conditions by Idris (Irishman with Welsh name, a marine biologist developing a clam farm off Gizo) in his fibreglass dinghy on 18th February. Starter motor back to William and his mud floor workshop for more rehabilitation (more serious this time) and the dinghy's Yamaha 9.9hp outboard motor broke a piston ring! Not a great week with the wheels threatening to fall off the expedition and I'm still weak from the malaria bout. Rainwater from a rather large thundershower drenched the Honda motor of the Bauer dive compressor which had to be dewatered, taking the better part of a whole day before it was functioning again. William had the main engine starter motor patched together and functioning again, though starting the engine is a cross fingers exercise. Ma, back in Auckland is organizing replacement parts. The Yamaha 9.9 outboard engine was stripped down and the engine block exhaust ports were found broken. New rings were installed by Jimmy at the Fisheries Workshop and the motor is back and running again. Things are literally being held together by string and sticking plaster!
Week 25th February - 3rd March 1991
Refurbished the for'd cabin into double bunk as it is the only space on the boat that catches any breeze, the remainder is airless! Bob, a fellow New Zealander, came onboard to go to the Shortland Islands. He is a commercial diver attempting to develop a cash flow here in the Solomon's from Trochus shells and green snails. On 1st March we sailed to Vanga Catholic Mission on the north side of Kolombangara Is to fill the water tanks with fresh water. (There is no drinkable water available for yachts at Gizo Harbour). A great sail, the best one in the Solomon's and first serious one since Christmas. A 3 hour night snorkel (2200-0100hrs) on Vanga reef with Bob yielded only one crayfish! Motored back to Gizo in typical windless conditions on 2nd March. Trailed lures but no fish which is fairly normal here despite the abundant schools seen in the water. They are too well fed!
Week 4th - 10th March 1991
Bob returned to New Zealand to sort issues there, so Shortland Is trip cancelled and the week was spent diving around Gizo with Glenn and Claudia. Discovered a new dive spot for the two Gizo Dive shops. It is a bommie 60 feet below the surface adjacent to Kennedy Island (named after US President J F Kennedy after he swam there during WW II when his gunboat PT109 was sunk). It has scores of fish, pelagic and reef including huge gropers swimming amongst fantastic coral gardens.
Week 11th - 17th March 1991
Paul Stokes, a somewhat charged up US chap sailing single-handed on his yacht "Upyrs" arrived at the Gizo anchorage. He raised the pace of social life in Gizo and there was a spate of birthday parties, dances and going away functions. Definitely the busiest social week for many a year!
Week 18th - 24th March 1991
Collided in the night in Gizo Harbour with a fast moving longboat with large outboard motor when Mike and I were returning in the zodiac inflatable dinghy. Nobody to blame apart from not exercising caution in darkness against the backdrop of lights from Gizo town. The T-bone resulted in the local driver of the longboat breaking his arm and demanding compensation. A combination of cash and T-shirts made up the compensation after consultation with a local expatriate solicitor and helped patch up the injured arm and ego. A few seconds the other way we would have been T-boned by a much bigger and heavier craft with more serious consequences and probability of compensation nil. The zodiac inflatable needed many patches to bow and side. Motored to the north side of Gizo Island adjacent to "Toa Maru" wreck with Mike and Sue onboard and in company with yachts "Vivant" (USA) and "Strewth II" (Australia). We dived together on the wreck and took underwater video and 35mm shots. Scrubbed the freshly growing weed off the hull before returning to Gizo Harbour on the afternoon of 21/03/91. Motor-sailed to Liapari on Vella Lavella Island on 23/03/91 with Idris and Rick (recently arrived from Australia to manage a fisheries project) for the weekend and a change of dive sites. returned to Gizo on 24/03/91.
Week 25th - 31st March 1991
Took half a dozen people to adjacent Olesara Island for Easter Barbeque and volleyball competition hosted by the Gizo Hotel. A great day with great food including crayfish, prawns, steaks, chops, fish and salads all for Sol$15 (A$7.50/NZ$9.00). Later in the week serviced the dive compressor with oil and filter change, it is now 1 year old and has performed a very useful role in the Solomon's.
Week 1st - 7th April 1991
Woken up early by the cry of "hey mister your outboard motor is underwater" from two young local girls paddling by in their canoe. Not an April Fools Day joke, sure enough there was a sad sight of a sunken dinghy and outboard. The tropical sun's debilitating effect on the Zodiac's material had caused delamination and a myriad of small leaks which were becoming impossible to patch and the bladders required pumping up every time before use. The remainder of the morning was spent dewatering the Yamaha Outboard motor which finally sprang to life after much coaxing! I'll be tying the bow AND the stern of the dinghy to the boat overnight from now on to stop a repeat performance. Several dives during the week have brought the total since arriving in Gizo to 40, 80 in total since commencing diving. Preparations were begun for the imminent departure from the Solomon's to Thursday Island at the northern tip of Queensland Australia. Angela, a NZ student doctor on locum in Gizo, and Cindy and Mal a honeymooning Australian couple have indicated a wish to crew on the trip. Sailed (25% sail/75% motor) to Ringi Cove on 6th April with Idris and Angie to fill water tanks for impending trip and attend the monthly barbeque and dance. No water available but enjoyed successful fishing in the harbour with 2 large kingfish (>1 metre) caught trolling behind the zodiac. Spent the night rafted up next to "Nathanial" a 65foot gaff rigged schooner enroute to the Philippines' and Hong Kong. Motored to Vanga (+/-20 miles) on 7th April to fill the water tanks and stayed the night at Vanga after completing all tasks and purchasing fresh vegetables and honey from the Catholic Brothers. Motored back from Vanga early (0430hrs) on Monday morning for Angie to commence work at the hospital at 0800hrs.
Week 8th - 14th April
The week was spent doing last minute chores and getting everything shipshape for departure for Australia early on Saturday morning 13/04/91. Angie finishes work at the Hospital on Friday afternoon and Mal and Cindy return from Uipi Island Dive Resort on Thursday afternoon. Rick has indicated he is interested in joining as his Fisheries project has fallen through.
(Details of trip to come)
The Annual Darwin to Ambon yacht race affords participants an easy opportunity to cruise to Indonesia with associated Indonesian Cruising Permits being arranged by the organizers. Indonesia is an archipelago of 13,000 islands with a population of +200 million where smiles are aplenty.
20th - 26th July 1991
Darwin (Australia) to Ambon (Spice Islands, Indonesia)
Darwin (Australia) to Ambon (Spice Islands, Indonesia)
Departed Darwin in Darwin-Ambon yacht race accompanied by large spectator fleet and 62 other yachts that entered the race. Five crew onboard; Alan Bell (Darwin), Carol Drinkwater (Melbourne), Gail Parker (Brisbane), Warren Batt (Perth) and myself (no fixed abode). After a hectic buildup and preparation for a few months prior to the race, we had a very sociable trip in light winds that saw the majority of the other cruising boats start their engines and retire from the race. Points of note were;
1 Got gennaker stuck up the mast first night out which necessitated Alan (being smallest and bravest?!) going up the mast to free jammed halyard block.
2 Great cuisine ala Carol (Chef extraordinaire with seafood banquets (compliments of her previous Skipper on prawn trawler), roast diners, steaks etc with all trimmings.
3 22-23rd July no wind no progress, a swim in the middle of the ocean (Timor Sea) was postponed when trailing fishing lure (which was hanging vertically) was pulled in (to ensure we didn't tangle with it) and attracted and hooked a shark (enormous 4-5 footer).
4 Saw no other yachts between the 2nd morning and last day before Ambon when we passed one during the penultimate day and the last night. She was 45foot sloop "Teresa" with 7 Army chaps onboard. This resulted in a frenetic downwind gybing duel which we subsequently won and crossed the line midday approximately 3/4 of an hour ahead.
5 We were 5th cruising yacht to cross the finish line all others but one retired and motored.
First five days in Ambon (incl 26/7/91). A presentation ceremony of much flair, dancing & music, many festivities (to be expected), took 37 Indonesian children and adults for sail past around Ambon Harbour on 28/7/91, Warren returned to Australia 29/7/91, Gail joined yacht "Australian Maid" (reluctantly- prior commitment), Carol, Alan & myself prepared the yacht for onward sail with bad livers.
Sail to Sulawesi (Buton Strait in SE corner) was very pleasant, only 2 and half days. Anchored for half day at Ambelau Is (small Is south of Buru Is) then pressed on at night time. Many Mosques in the small villages on Ambelau, Muslim influence getting larger as we head west. Dropped anchor adjacent to Labuanblanda Is at the nth end of Buton Strait at 0900hrs on 2/8/91. Only one other yacht there when we arrived then a constant trickle during the day saw 8 yachts anchored at the end of the day. Evening drinks on American yacht "Molly Brown" owned by Pat and Dickie who new mutual friends John & Margaret Reedy from Westport New Zealand, small world!
3rd - 9th August 1991 Buton Strait (Sulawesi)
Buton Strait (Sulawesi)
First four days at Labuanblanda Is anchorage. 23 yachts together there after the first couple of days. Dive compressor was taken out and dive bottles refilled for 1st time since the Solomon Is (April'91), sticky valve in Honda engine had to be remedied first. Took Carol on her 1st dive, Alan has a dislike for water! Tried to spear fish for food but they proved too quick. The coral formations were good and the water clarity not to bad but not of Solomon Islands standard. Alan spent two days helping remedy a starter motor problem on another yacht which was reminiscent of "Star of the West'" Solomon problems. Visited the market at Labuanblanda early one morning where all sorts of objects were for sale on mud floors under lean-to shanties. Had a wash/swim in a freshwater stream below a waterfall at one village accompanied by about 30-40 village children. Carol, at the women's separate washing place proved the most popular. Alan and I had to share our shampoo with all attendees. We moved on down the Buton Strait on 07/08/91 to Kebuetan Island in the middle of the Strait. A game of cricket with yachties from +/- 15 other yachts on the sandspit during the afternoon and a barbeque on the beach during the evening. Passed through the narrows (+/-200metres wide) at the southern end of the Buton Strait on 08/08/91 and anchored off the town of Bau Bau. Went ashore to investigate accompanied by a chorus of many "hello mister's"!! There was an unsavoury experience with a kleptomaniac friend of a local Chinese restaurateur who had been invited onboard on 09/08/91. He had an unscheduled swim ashore after he tried to hide my wallet in his shoulder bag. We visited the Sultans Palace on the top of the hill at Bau Bau and met the 39th Sultan of Buton and his wife. His ancestry goes back to the 4th Century.
Week 10th -16th August 1991 (Buton Strait to Ujung Pandang, Sulawesi)
This week we traversed the southern part of Sulawesi from Bau Bau to the large city of Ujung Pandang on the southwest corner of Sulawesi via the anchorages of Kabaena Island, the boatbuilding village of Tanaberu, Malasoro Bay and arrived at Unjung Pandang (formerly known as Macassar) on the afternoon of 14/08/91. At Tanaberu, large traditional wooden schooners (prau's) were built on the beach. We enjoyed a good sail on the final day to Ujung Pandang with 5 yachts for company. We had ripped the mainsail from luff (front) to leach (back) two days out so could only use it with two reefs in. The 15th/16th August were spent exploring Ujung Pandang, a big welcoming ceremony (+/- 30 yachts here now_ and getting sails repaired and maintenance done. Gail teamed up with us again after missing us on her trip around the northern part of Sulawesi on yacht "Australian Maid".
Week 17th -23rd August 1991 (Ujung Pandang, Sulawesi)
The first two days we participated in a sail past with the fleet of large traditional Indonesian schooners who began their annual Ujung Pandang to Jakarta race. We joined the Makassar Regatta Race on 18/08/91 and didn't crown ourselves with glory only managing to keep ahead of our cruising rivals. (The hull was later found to be encrusted in barnacles!). A big prize-giving evening and farewell dinner was held on 19/08/91 before yachts headed off on their own agendas, either back to Australia via the Flores group if Islands or west to Bali and beyond. A swapping of hilarious tales with yachts that had taken the northern route around Sulawesi, then a quiet week onboard whilst the crew toured inland to Tana Toraja in central Sulawesi. Ujung Pandang is a very lively City with a good atmosphere.
The pleasant stay at Ujung Pandang continued until 27th August when destinations west beckoned. Crew Alan and then Carol had flown direct to Bali to catch up with old friends so Grant Summers and myself set sail south-west for Lombok. Grant, a fellow Kiwi living in Australia had sailed on the Aussie yacht "Olly" from Darwin to Ujung Pandang. We had a very pleasant sail after initially blowing out the genoa in the first 6 hours after departure. At 0917hrs on 29th August we arrived at Gili Air, a small island group off the north-west coast of Lombok. We had watched an incredible sunrise up behind Mt. Rinjanji on Lombok which rises >12,500 feet straight out of the sea, (higher than NZ's Mt. Cook, which is 12349ft high). Several other yachts arrived and/or departed and the anchorage at Gili Air was very picturesque with many small open thatched restaurants and Losmen (bungalows) on or close to the beach. The island destination is very popular with western women from all over the world seeking companionship with the small local Indonesian boys/men. I donned dive gear and took advantage of the clkear waters to scrape the hull clean of weed and barnacles which were almost an inch thick on the bottom. (The reason why we didn't take any prizes at the Makassar Regatta!).
We departed Lombok on 31st August with passenger Joanne, (a NZ girl from Gisborne living in Melbourne Australia) who we had met on Gili Air, and arrived at Benoa Harbour Bali 9 hours later after motoring most of the way in windless conditions. The anchorage at Benoa was very crowded. At the end of the week +30 yachts were in a very confined space, touching and threatening to demolish one another particularly in wind against tide conditions. Some time was spent ashore at the Suji Bungalows in Kuta with the "Olly" crew whilst we explored Kuta Beach and environs with myriads of other European tourists (predominately Australians). Kuta Beach was found to be very commercial and expensive compared to what we had been used to in Ambon, Sulawesi and Lombok. Sanur Beach on the south east coast of Bali whilst also expensive was less crowded than Kuta. Denpassar, the main town in Bali was an interesting commercial centre and there was lots of nice scenery north of Kuta and Denpassar in the hills.
Whilst in Bali, an American yachtie, John Barnett residing in Jakarta provided a lot of valuable local knowledge of where to go when further west in Java. Adrian (who I had last seen in Mooloolaba Queensland in 1985) arrived on NZ (Nelson) yacht "Mandela" and both he and John being fluent in the local Indonesian language (bahasa) were conversant with local habits and a source of sound information. After a long period of being on "the road", I collected, with much joy, mail from all family which arrived at the American Express Office in Sanur. Lia, an Indonesian girl we had met in Ujung Pandang had joined the crew after the first few exploratory days in Bali and also Dave an Australian (ex yacht "Olly" who had sailed east to Australia on 5th September). They added to the complement of Carol, Grant and myself and we set sail for Surabaya via Bali Strait on 11/09/91 at 1400hrs. With no wind for the first 18hrs we motored until we had passed through Bali Strait between East Java and Bali. We went backwards for two hours in Bali Strait whilst the South-east flowing current was at its strongest. We were motoring north at 5 knots and the current was flowing south against us at 7 knots. Eventually we hugged the Bali shore and with a little counter current eventually passed through, but it was certainly an "interesting" experience. Throughout the two nights at sea we past many dark unlit fishing boats and only those who felt threatened by our proximity flashed a torch and cranked their motors to avoid contact. A sharp lookout had to be kept at all times. We arrived at Surabaya (Indonesia's 2nd largest city after Jakarta) at 1406hrs on 13/09/91 and tied up in huge modern Tanjung Perak Harbour amongst many ships and a large fleet of Indonesian Navy Ships in their main Naval Port. There were no facilities for achties and we tied up at the Navigation Wharf, the only yacht feeling very much out of place in a vast harbour.
We had a busy time in Surabaya aided by Lia's friend Anwar and her family. We moved moorings six times in the three days at Tanjung Perak Harbour at the Harbourmaster's request. He was concerned for our security, citing incidents of piracy on the ships at anchor outside the harbour from Madura pirates. We were eventually moored securely beside a large Water-Police Ship. Surabaya was a large modern city and we only scratched the surface whilst we were there. We farewelled Lia and her family on 16/09/91 departing for Jakarta via Madura Strait and the Karimunjawa Islands in the Java Sea. Madura Strait was an extremely busy sea channel between East Java and the island of Madura and ships passed on both sides of us heading in all directions during the first night making a mockery of modern navigation rules. We dropped anchor at one of the Karimunjawa Islands on the morning of 18/09/91 in nice clear water with adjacent pristine reefs amongst a nice tropical island setting. It was nice to swim again after the polluted waters of Benoa and Surabaya harbours had been too uninviting. We moved anchorage on 19/09/91 and along with a good swim and snorkel, scrubbed the hull and decks, changed engine oil and filters and were all spruced up for Jakarta, departing Karimunjawa Group at 1107hrs on 20/09/91.
Week 21st -27th September 1991 (Karimunjawa Islands to Jakarta, West Java)
The wind was very light through the Java Sea, so we motored, sailed a little and motored and motored. Huge oil/gas fields off the north coast of Java, lit up the area like a city as we passed through the night of 21st and morning of 22nd September. Many ships, platforms, gas flares, production rigs and small boat traffic. We traversed an amazing armada of anchored ships (>50) off the entrance to Tanjung Priok Harbour Jakarta with an equal number inside and tied up at 0800hrs on 22/09/91 amongst a logjam of boats at Subtoni's yard off Jalan Donggala. There was a sprinkling of yachts on moorings in the Donggala basin which was shadowed on its western side by stacked containers and towering container cranes. Tanjung Priok Harbour dwarfed Tanjung Perak of Surabaya and exceeded its filth also as the harbour was littered with debris and smelled of effluent. If someone had said at the time that this would be the base for "Star of the West" for the better part of 5 years until the end of 1996 I would have shaken my head most definitely not, but that is what transpired. At Subtoni's shortly after arrival we were assigned a boatboy, Asep for security and maintenance requirements and sleep onboard whilst we ventured into the city to explore. Asep would be retained for the majority of the time "Star of the West" was in Indonesian waters until departure to Sabah, Malaysia in December 1996. Dave found accommodation in Jakarta and Carol, Grant and I flew to Singapore for visa requirements. I returned to Jakarta with a new visa whilst Carol and Grant continued onto the Malaysian motorbike Grand Prix.
Week 28th September - 3rd October 1991 (Jakarta, West Java)
Dave and I ferreted out old friends and new were establish as we ventured around mind-boggling Jakarta. It was easy to imagine that this was the centre of the Universe. Every culture, nation, business or recreational pursuit seemed to be represented here and whilst there are probably more idyllic and better located cities, a lot happens or is initiated from here. The decision, good or bad, was made to put circumnavigation plans on hold and see what the future holds in the tropics.
Kim Bunting Grant Summers Graeme Chuck
16th February 1996
night departure required a snooze before all assembled and I had 40 winks before
Grant appeared at 2100hrs followed by Graeme and Gordon
(brother of Graeme and newly arrived from Tasmania) at 2200hrs with
a vehicle full of delights from the local supermarket. The abundant supplies of
all sorts of luxury goodies, copious quantities of amber fluid and harder stuff
were stowed away and we departed Kalimati at 2300hrs.
departed the Tg Priok harbor entrance with a 10kt SW wind and set sail west on a
course that took us south of Pulau Ayer then north of Pulau's Untungjawa
Rambut and Bokor. A few quiet beers were enjoyed whilst we extolled the virtues
of the new stainless steel bumpkin, made by Bpk. Yusuf from Glodok. Our pleasant
sail was short lived with increasing winds from the southwest and associated
squalls and rain. We passed Pulau Ayer close hauled on port tack and then tacked
our way west until the wind lightened and we dropped the headsail and motored
Rambut and Bokor. A few quiet beers were enjoyed whilst we extolled the virtues
of the new stainless steel bumpkin, made by Bpk. Yusuf from Glodok. Our pleasant
sail was short lived with increasing winds from the southwest and associated
squalls and rain. We passed Pulau Ayer close hauled on port tack and then tacked
our way west until the wind lightened and we dropped the headsail and motored
17th February 1996
light winds continued and so did the motoring as we made good but mechanical
progress towards Tanjung Pujut, immediately north of the large coal fired
Suralaya Power station at the northern entrance to Sunda Strait. We rounded Tg.
Pujut early in the morning and continued motor sailing to Sangiang Is where
brief radio contact with "Temeraire II" was made and skipper Hans Otto
advised that he and his crew of French ladies were heading directly to Krakatau.
usual strong currents, with upstanding seas and surf breaking off the eastern
end of Sangiang' Is. in mid-Sunda Strait, provided brief excitement from the
previous rather monotonous motor sail as "Star of the West" bucked and
heaved her way past the southeast end of the Island into the calm waters of the
large south facing bay where we motored past an old resort with renovations in
progress in the far-eastern cove, then classical pillow lava's and pyroclastics
exposed in large cliffs which appealed to the geological members of the crew. We
anchored in 15 meters of water off the expansive south beach with white sand and
palm trees which prompted Gordon and Graeme to swim to shore where at a hut on
the eastern end of the beach they encountered the usual ''island security"
who always indicate the issuing of landing rights was entirely theirs and they
would welcome some remuneration.
Chuck's swam back from the beach and Graeme began a ritual, which continued
throughout the trip whereby he swam, snorkeled or generally was found washing
his mask and snorkel near the outlet of the heads when they were in use. The
abundance of sparkling clear water only meters away didn't seem to hold the same
appeal for him.
dusk, whilst we enjoyed one of many pleasant evening meals, thousands of bats
emerged from the caves below the craggy volcanic cliffs created a mesmerizing
swirling dark cloud before disappearing into the darkness.
18th February 1996
uncomfortable southerly swell developed with the southwesterly wind and at 0030
we raised anchor and sailed off to the west to Sebuku Is. where a "Spanish
galleon look-alike fleet" of floating fish traps emerged in the pre-dawn
light all anchored off the eastern coast of Sebuku. We anchored off the NW edge
of small sandy beach on the northern end of Sebuku Kecil, which is a small
football field sized island with lush vegetation a small hill and a perfect BBQ
beach. Many local small ferries (Sebisi - Rajabasa on Sumatra) passed, with
friendly occupants returning to their Kampung's for Lebaran. With pearl farming
expansion from the Lampung Bay area the area was largely laid out in new farms
and we had a visit from a group of supervisors in a speedboat before we raised
the foredeck tent and went to sleep.
and Graeme headed off in the inflatable and circumnavigated Sebuku Kecil and
explored the coves of east Sebuku, then in the afternoon we all snorkeled over a
WWII wreck on the eastern shore of Sebuku Besar. This wreck with it's capstan
exposed on the reef continues down to about 50ft below surface and is a mass of
boiler pipes with no superstructure, a long narrow hull, and is well overgrown.
After returning to the boat we moved anchorage approx. 100 metres to the NE to
avoid a wind vs. current chop on the western side then enjoyed a BBQ on the
beach before passing out.
19th February 1996
breakfast we departed for Krakatau but first heading north towards towering Mt.
Rajabasa on Sumatra then skirted the north and west coasts of Sebuku. There was
no wind or only light northerly behind us, which necessitated motoring as we
passed the high hills, rugged cliffs and white sandy beaches and their accompany
rig palm trees. More "Spanish galleons" were found sheltered in
anchorage's of this idyllic tropical paradise which is always a little exposed
on this western side to the westerly swells from the Indian ocean to the south.
We had glassy seas and a lazy swell all the way to the Krakatau complex of four
islands. We motored past the western side of Anak Krakatau, much higher than she
had been when we had extensively cruised the area in 1992-1993 when based at
Mambruk Hotel in Anyer and watched her pyrotechnics whilst beneath us the water
depths varied from 4 meters deep to beyond the limits of the depth sounder
(+160m) where the 1883 eruption excavated a huge cavern in the sea bed of Sunda
Strait which is generally in the 70ft depth range. We anchored under the north
facing vertical cliff (2,655ft) of Rakata, the southernmost of the Krakatau
group, and enjoyed a snorkel and swim whilst a motor boat from Carita beach
anchored briefly beside us to watch the explosive hypnotic Anak Krakatau. The
departure of the sun brought another dimension to her anger, huge eruptions of
red hot rocks into the sky falling and cascading down her slopes produced a
colorful display a November Guy Fawkes party couldn't emulate.
20th, February 1996
raised anchor shortly after midnight, after a brief sleep, to take advantage of
a westerly breeze, and motored again past the western side of Anak Krakatau. The
sortie this time revealed a mobile lava flow identifiable by red molten rocks
glowing below a crusty cracking black solidified cap, which was gradually
working its way down the NW slope of Anak Krakatau. We turned South and exited
the Krakatau complex between Rakata and Sertung Islands.
wind stayed in the west and we had a very pleasant sail down to the northern end
of Panaitan Is., the large western
island off Java head (westernmost part of Java) and part of the Ujung Kulon
National Park. We dropped anchor off a NE embayment of Panaitan (Teluk Lentah)
where large expanses of coral and crystal clear water provide very pleasant
diving and snorkeling sites. The wind however had risen from the NW and the chop
was unpleasant so we raised anchor and sailed downwind, winging the Genoa out,
towards Peucang Is. A sail in the far south down towards Java proved to be Hans
Otto tacking his way up the channel between Panaitan and the mainland. He was on
his way back to Jakarta with his
guests, and we exchanged pleasantries over the radio and continued down towards
the narrow gap between Pecang Is. and mainland Java.
trailing a line and lure throughout the trip, the rubber strop on our trailing
lure suddenly became very tight and we started pulling in the thick 3mm
(virtually unbreakable) nylon line. A large yellow silver Dorado swam up on our
starboard quarter and a large left eye looked up at us as we drooled and
anticipated pulling it onboard. The fish had other thoughts and promptly spat
out the lure and dived underneath our stern leaving us empty-handed. Our
compensation was that the best anchorage in Indonesia awaited us a few miles to
the south off Peucang Island where the Ujung Kulon National Park base camp has a
jetty and park office, luxury and budget accommodation and a restaurant. We
chose our favorite anchorage approximately 50 meters off the white sandy beach
in 6-10 meters of clear flat water. This anchorage is always protected as no
swell is able to penetrate far beyond the two openings to the open seas to the
Nth and Sth of Pecang Is., where even if a strong south-easterly wind develops,
the fetch to the Java shore is too short for any threatening swell or chop to
develop to disturb the anchorage
registered with the park authorities, enjoyed a meal in the restaurant, then
returned to "Star of the West" sharing the anchorage with a tramp
steamer -dive boat and other fishing/ diving / ferry type, craft in the channel
21st- February 1996
leisurely morning Peucang Is. walk for Grant and Gordon amongst the monitor
lizards, deer and monkeys, whilst Graeme and I cleaned the teak deck of the
remaining Tg. Priok grime. Giri &Tonic's were guzzled under the foredeck
cover for lunch before a cruise around rocky Java head and its lighthouse into
the Indian ocean and down to Tg. Cangkuang, past high rugged cliffs in the
moderate swell. We trailed a lure in the hope of attracting a companion of our
lost Dorado from the depths of the Indian Ocean, which in this vicinity drop to
1000 metres from immediately off the coast. There were no fish interested in our
tackle so enjoying the fresh clean environment we tackled a few more lurch tots
on our return to Peucang, assisting, a motor boat with some essential
navigational information who had rapidly appeared over the eastern horizon also
bound for an elusive Peucang. Another evening meal at the Park Headquarters
restaurant and more revealing tales about the Chuck brothers youth which they
hadn't previously shared with each other led to much mirth.
22nd February 1996.
sailed off at 0800hrs on our return leg and on approaching Tg. Alangalang at
1050hrs with the wind directly on our nose from the north we decided to set an
easterly course and check on the Grand Krakatau resort which had been promoted
at a JOSC gathering the previous year as a two golf course, marina luxury resort
complex. Sailing close hauled and on approaching Tg. Camara, the locality of the
resort, in mid-afternoon, we noticed a white sail in the distance sailing south
towards us. It was Vincent Thierry, son and a staff member on the trampoline of
his 14ft catamaran enjoying a sail along the coast. Vincent had a supervisory
role at the resort, and after initially anchoring off the resort golf course, we
anchored off Vincent's bungalow in the bay inside an offshore reef in
approx. 3 meters of calm clear water. We enjoyed Vincent's hospitality onshore
before returning to another Chuck culinary delight.
approx. 3 meters of calm clear water. We enjoyed Vincent's hospitality onshore
before returning to another Chuck culinary delight.
23rd February 1996
swimming escapades continued off the outlet of the heads during the early
morning post-breakfast ablutions, then we were given a guided tour ' through the
resort where we viewed the incomplete marina excavation, the completed links
golf course and club house, before we raised anchor and motored north up the
coast to Tg. Lesung where Vincent was planning to set up a beach club and a
plywood catamaran building center.
sailed close-hauled up to Carita, sailed around the bay with its huge new hotel
development in progress whilst Graeme served up another chef s special. The bay
was too busy with parasailing, ferries and jetskis, so we motor sailed on up the
coast to Bendulu beach where Grant and I had lived in 1993 whilst operating from
Mambruk. We anchored in the fading light at the south-end of the beach,
generally sheltered from any swell from the southwest and noticed another huge
hotel shopping complex development in progress located in the center of the
large sweeping beach.
24th February 1996
O6OOhrs I awoke in the for'd cabin to the sounds of activity close by and on
surfacing found we had been surrounded by a full circle of buoys and their
accompanying net during the early hours of the morning. On closer inspection,
the noise from the bow revealed a local fisherman in his canoe with approx.
25metres of our anchor chain in his canoe, which he had raised by hand. He was
in danger of sinking but was afraid the chain and anchor would get caught in his
net and was grateful we had electrical means of raising it from the bottom. We
exited still bleary-eyed between two buoys with the fisherman holding the net
down with his paddle and motored onto Mambruk Hotel below the Anyer lighthouse
where we had breakfast ashore at the hotel and renewed old acquaintances. A
lumpy swell developed where we had anchored offshore due the wind against a
northerly current in the Strait, and "Star of the West" visible from
the Hotel restaurant was showing signs of impatience, so we returned, raised
anchor and motor sailed into a freshening northerly breeze on up to Merak, and
through the gap between Merak Is. and the busy Sumatra-Java ferry terminal. We
continued on around the corner to anchor for the afternoon off Florida beach in
a narrow gap between Tamposo Is.
and the infamous Florida resort. After a swim and an afternoon siesta, we raised
anchor in the late afternoon to sail around Tg. Pujut, exiting Sunda Strait onto
a more secure anchorage in between the Kali Islands and Java. There is
considerable industrial development here, however the background of high hills,
rice padi terraces, mosques and Kampung's
make an interesting contrast.
26th February 1996
With the wind rising from the west we emerged from our sheltered anchorage into building seas, however the wind and seas were off our port quarter and we had a fast sail under full rig, with the inflatable at times surfing behind us in a most unseamanlike manner. We quickly passed Pulau Tunda to port, then before reaching Pulau Payung altered course to the southeast to pass south of the Pulau Pari group of islands onto Pulau Dapur and back into Jakarta Bay with it's increasingly turbid water and associated flotsam. The quick trip to Tg. Priok saw a late afternoon arrival accompanied by a large Pelni ferry from the west, and "Mamiri" having a jolly sail around the harbor. We had enjoyed a very full nine days, told many tales, saw a variety of sights and had many pleasant memories.
24th December 1996 (Christmas Eve)
1656hrs, engine on , supplies stowed, everything shipshape but with zodiac inflatable stowed over the foredeck and fibreglass dinghy over the heads hatch its somewhat dark down below. We are resembling a truck carting produce from Sumatra to Java. It's goodbye to Asep and the numerous boat boys waving farewell from the dock after five and a half years in Indonesian waters as Atik, Ratna and myself depart Kalimati moorings in Tanjung Priok Harbour Jakarta bound for Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo where a new project awaits. Departure on Christmas Eve was selected to coincide with Grant and Sri Summers holiday break and take advantage of the full moon. However, Sri tragically lost her son, Wawan, in a traffic accident in late November and Grant and Sri were unable to accompany. We cleared the harbour entrance at 1800hrs and with Yankee, Staysail and mainsail all set we headed due north with the intention of anchoring 6 miles north at Pulau Besar for the night, but 20kt westerlies prompted us to make good use of a broad reach and we pressed on heading 000 with the motor ticking over to bring the freezer temp down as it was newly stocked with fresh food and beverages. Atik, (Ratna's cousin, newly arrived from Semarang) never having set foot on a boat before, was perched near the leeward rail acutely seasick, periodically joined by Ratna. The seas were lumpy and the occasional steep one dumped seawater onto the deck or into the cockpit, but the Kalimati grime was beginning to be sluiced off so despite wet cockpit cushions, we were moderately content, rapidly clocking up the sea miles under the steady helm of the newly installed Autohelm 4000ST autopilot.
25th December 1996 (Christmas Day)
0050hrs engine off and we continued our steady progress on a heading of 000 under sail. We had logged 47.1 nautical miles in 7 hours, averaging almost 7knots so progress had been good with 20-25kts of westerlies still blowing. We hadn't hoisted the genoa before departure as the comfortable duo of yankee jib and staysail up front were more than enough in the fresh wind and lumpy seas. Ratna and Atik had finally retired down below exhausted and with empty stomachs. The morning sun revealed confused seas with threatening dark clouds which at 1140hrs turned into a huge line squall from the north and the wind strengthened to 30-40 kts from NNW. The mainsail was dropped briefly then raised with two reefs before adding a third reef as we pounded into steep miserable seas, drenched by sea water and rain from the passing squalls. The staysail was eventually lowered as we proceeded uncomfortably under yankee jib and triple reefed mainsail. Everything was grey including our moods as our course varied between 030-060, far from our intended route for most of the day. The 1425hr weatherfax from AXI revealed a tropical storm designated "Greg" had developed west of Kota Kinabalu our destination some 1,000 miles to the north and this together with a tropical low south of Java was funneling a lot of wind our way and all from the wrong direction, directly on our nose from the north! At 1800hrs the log read 155 nautical miles for the 24hour run so we had made good progress albeit with too much easting. At 2100hrs we were at 3.495S/108.133E and I had just had the luxury of sleep. Two 1 hour stints partly asleep in the wet cockpit compliments of Ratna who stood watch then promptly emptied the contents of her stomach before disappearing below to a drier environment. Conditions were unchanged, we were averaging a course of 045 in 25kts of NW with a lumpy 2-3 metre swell, though it was slightly more comfortable as we approached the lee of Pulau Belitung. Our anticipated benefit from a full moon was lost due to masses of cloud layers as we plunged through the inky black night and I pondered what everyone else was up to this festive season.
26th December 1996 (Boxing Day)
At 0220hrs we changed course to 320, dropped the yankee jib and motored north-west in the darkness with triple reefed mainsail towards an anchorage in a Bay east of Tg. Batuhitam on the south-western tip of Pulau Belitung. Sleep and comfort were the first priorities as the conditions hadn't improved and a huge swell was developing from the north to our alarm as we poked our nose out briefly from the lee of Belitung. (Unbeknown to us at the time, Tropical Storm "Greg" was creating mayhem on the west coast of North Borneo, north of us, with damage to property, large tracts of jungle stripped of foliage, with rain and associated flooding causing loss of more than 230 lives). We anchored at 0810hrs in flat water east of Tg. Batuhitam and with the wind still howling and intermittent rain squalls, promptly collapsed. The day and night passed in a haze as we slept, woke, ate, made things shipshape and licked our wounds. Surely the worst was over and we can cruise from here on in?
27th December 1996
At 0950hrs everything was shipshape, and fed and rested we raised anchor and headed firstly south-east to clear a string of islands, then exited the Java Sea heading NE on a course between 020-045. We were still in the lee of Belitung and intended selecting another overnight anchorage before we had to tackle the South China Sea. The landscape and islands on this eastern side of Belitung were flat and featureless. Several tugs with barges on tow and a Penisi (traditional trading schooner) under motor and full sail headed south in the opposite direction enjoying a following wind and sea. The girls were in much better spirits with the flat seas, but as we nudged northwards out of the lee of Belitung the swell re-emerged. At 1700hrs before dusk we anchored at 2.488S/108.256E, south-east of Pulau's Siadung and Bukulimau just as a 25kt NW blast descended with sheets of rain and before long the seas became animated and uncomfortable as we rolled side to side in a cross-swell that curved around the islands. We weren't going to shift anchorage amongst the reefs in the darkness as our full moon was still hidden behind thick cloud cover so we spent an uncomfortable night rolling from side to side with the wind whistling ominously around us.
28th December 1996
It was apparently Saturday, the days of the week had lost all relevance as we raised anchor early as possible at first light to escape the torments of our rock and roll anchorage. We motor-sailed slowly northwards with double reefed mainsail into a 25kt NNW wind that howled in the rigging. Our wind instrument must have been under reading as the rigging noise implied much stronger winds. We passed a gathering fleet of small wooden fishing boats sheltering in the lee of Pulau Siadung rather than venture out into the building northerly swell. Conditions weren't looking too good but we had a few more islands ahead to give us a little shelter before a 60 mile open stretch to Pulau's Karimata and Serutu to the north. At 1154hrs we anchored behind Pulau Sekumpul an interesting low island with coconut palms and and inviting white sandy beach on it's southern shore. The fringing reef was too broad for us to approach the island closely and the inevitable swell eventually found us an we raised anchor at 1320hrs and motored north for an hour to Pulau Nangka, a slightly larger steep densely vegetated island which provided good shelter from the swell close under her high southern shore. "Bullets" of adiabatic winds rushed down from the the peaks and had us swinging frequently around our anchor, but I caught up with sleep whilst the girls amused themselves viewing strange shaped individuals who emerged occasionally from the mangroves along the shore. It was tempting to remain in the lee of the island overnight but the anchorage was exposed to all but northerly winds so after a large meal dished up by Ratna I opted for progress northwards and we raised anchor at 1600hrs. Atik was somewhat confused at our dusk departure and enquired why we hadn't opted for flying to Kota Kinabalu in only a few ours instead of this slow punishing pounding crawl northwards. A brief explanation of the joys of cruising/sailing and the need to relocate to the new project area failed to ease her discomfort. We made hard work of clearing the north-western end of Nangka where a very short steep swell and the 25kt NNW wind were intent on pushing us onto the fringing reef. The reef had already claimed a very visible victim which was now a rusting hulk half submerged on the edge of the reef. We proceeded close-hauled north-east under sail with yankee jib, staysail and double-reefed mainsail. We made good progress though far off our intended course by 60 degrees despite the uncomfortable northerly swell frequently dousing us we came close to enjoying the sail. We continued under sail all night except for a brief period under motor when we couldn't determine whether two boats persistently ahead had evil intent. When we eventually passed them they proved to be prawners not pirates!
29th December 1996
At 0143hrs, unable to keep awake with the wind allowing us a course of 025 and the seas decidedly flatter as we were in the lee of Pulau's Serutu and Karimata, we prudently hove-to rather than all fall asleep and run aground and Ratna stood watch whilst I slept. The decision which seemed wise at the time turned an easy arrival at Karimata into a nightmare. When Ratna awoke me at 0556hrs we gybed and continued on port tack having seemingly only lost the equivalent of one hours northward progress. After half an hour the wind dropped out and we motored for an hour before the wind came back with vengeance from the north which had us heading 045 into a miserable short steep milky sea. The Pilot book states "progress can be hindered in this area due to unfavourable wind against sea conditions" and our hobbyhorsing was certainly confirming that! At 0950hrs with small dark warship shaped Pulau Perangin to starboard we tacked to starboard onto 300 and shortly after dropped the yankee and staysail and motored with double-reefed mainsail only into an almost impossible sea. At times the bow would dig her nose in, the anchors would rattle horribly in their holders and the propeller would churn up air as we struggled to get any forward momentum. We approached a couple of small islands east of Karimata in the hope of shelter but the encircling swell had one large fishing boat at anchor doing a merry dance whilst several smaller ones were pulled up on the beach, so we continued westwards where Singapore was increasingly looking like our new destination. As we approached Karimata the seas started to settle then flatten altogether, though the wind was still 25-35 knots in gusts, then palm trees and white sandy beaches became visible (below towering hills (clad in clouds) that prompted Ratna to liken the vista to what she had read about Hawaii, but more likely due to the escape from the past seven and a half hours of recent misery. We dropped anchor at l42O hours in clear blue water with a picture-postcard backdrop and after the usual routine of making all shipshape again, we continued marvelling at our surrounds and watched other boats, prows and penisi's at anchor also enjoying the tranquility whilst the wind whistled overhead. A couple of beers with the evening meal were the first I had touched since departure, and with Atik and Ratna rattling off in 'Bahasa Java" in the cockpit about seemingly everything possible, enjoying their new relaxing environment, the tensions of the day evaporated.
30th December 1996
Lots of action this morning, airing, cleaning, fixing, cooking and a visit from a friendly fisherman and his son with a boat-load of mud crabs which saw us purchasing two buckets full for two T-shirts. At 1430 hours we raised the anchor and headed off from our settled haven. After clearing the western end of Karimata we continued on a NW heading, motor-sailing with the yankee and double-reefed mainsail. Using the engine too enabled us to maintain momentum in a gusty 25-30kt northerly headwind and a seas with large holes at times. With the Western coast of Borneo aligned north-south for the next ??? miles we had no choice but to tack until the wind showed some movement from its persistent northerly direction. We tacked at 1820hrs and crashed and bashed our way NE in the darkness with the bowsprit and anchors still setting up a racket from up forward as we constantly biuried our bow into the steep head seas. We turned the motor off at 2220hrs making slow progress with several ships passing us heading NW as we edged closer to the Borneo (West Kalimantan) coast.
31st December 1996 (New Years Eve)
At 0308hrs the yankee was dropped and with the motor on still on port tack, we tried to make a slightly better northerly heading. The morning was not a pretty sight with an ugly head sea and wind. At 0630hrs we raised the yankee again, tacked to starboard and headed out in search of a more regular wave pattern in deeper water. the log comments at 1105hrs said it all! "This is not enjoyable!". I had two hours sleep stretched out on a pile of soggy cockpit cushions down below on the cabin sole whilst the girls in their harnesses sheltered in the leeward corner of the cockpit behind the dodger trying to keep dry and accepting that the rest of their days were destined to be huddled like this at an angle of 45 degrees. At 1345hrs we tacked to port, turned on the motor to assist in forward momentum and continued our crash north-eastwards. At 1830hrs the wind picked up to 35-40knots and bedlam as the aluminium autopilot bracket on the tiller bent 90 degrees and the contents of the port side lockers distributed themselves throughout the cabin, while in the for'd cabin the lockers, cupboard and mirror unit parted company from the hull with all the bashing. "How much more?" was the log entry, we seemed to be making more sideways momentum than forward. At 2340hrs Ratna was on watch as I attempted some sleep 11 miles south of the equator, wet, cold and uncomfortable whilst the world sang "Auld lang syne" to welcome in the New Year.
At 0010hrs we tacked to starboard onto a heading of 310 to avoid disappearing up the mouth of the Kapuas river (West Kalimantan), or more likely ending up on one of her sand-banks. We passed numerous boats of all sizes waiting for dawn to enter Kapuas kecil for entry to Pontianak, and tacked several times trying to establish a better northerly heading. We eventually crossed the equator on starboard tack at 0550hrs at 108.41.7E beating to windward into a 25-30kt northerly with yankee and triple reefed mainsail. These were hardly equatorial conditions and we were in no position or mood to conduct a King Neptune party, as tradition demanded, this being the first time we had all crossed the equator by sea. Things were bleak, the prospect of continuing like this for another day to the next far away moderately sized islands for shelter was too much to contemplate and we edged towards Pulau Datu a nearby pin prick of an island on the chart. Pl. Datu was steep sided, only 100 metres across with shelter from the swell in deep water unlikely but we were desperate for a rest. As we approached at a snails pace, small boats became visible tight under the southern shore and we edged up and anchored a stones throw away from the shore in relatively quiet conditions amongst them. It appeared that the majority of the Pontianak fishing fleet were sheltering from the elements here in this most unlikely of anchorages. All eyes were on us, a foreign yacht must have been a rare and strange sight for most of the fishermen. We dried as much as we could, slept and Ratna produced a million dollar steak, potato and vege meal in the evening. A great sleep was had under a weak half-moon which rose at 2330hrs. We were quickly losing the benefit of moonlit sailing nights and we weren't even halfway to our destination!
2nd January 1997
The day went quickly, drying things out, repairing the slef-steering bracket, for'd cabin lockers and cupboards. Most of the fishing fleet raised anchor late afternoon as conditions seemed to abate and we did the same at 1657hrs heading NNE in a 16kt northerly and easing lumpy seas. We continued on port tack until 2127hrs when we tacked in 4 metres of water off Tg. Bankal and sailed in the darkness through a narrow gap between the small islands of Sitinjau and Damar thanks to modern GPS navigation and a laptop computer chart plotter.
3rd January 1997
We continued north under motor and mainsail during the day as the winds lightened up for the first time on the trip and enjoyed an assortment of dishes from the galley as Ratna took advantage of the decreased angle of heel to dig into ships supplies. We entered muddy brown waters and squeezed past (6 metres of water) the mouth of Sungai Sambas, a large river north of the town of Singkawang, still in Indonesian waters. At 1710 hrs we turned the engine off and sailed out into deeper water tacking our way north.
4th January 1997
At midnight we dropped the headsails and motored into a light 10knot northerly to reach Tg. Api the north-western Cape of Borneo by sunrise. Ship traffic had increased as we were in a common route for coastal and ocean traffic and eventually rounded Tg. Api at 0715hrs cut the engine raised the genoa for the first time on the trip. Things were on the improve???!!! We had logged 722 miles on our zigzag course from Jakarta, though as the crow flies travelled only 504 miles north. We sailed into Malaysian waters at 1100hrs as we passed Tg. Datu, the border between Indonesian West Kalimantan and Malaysian Sarawak on the north-west coast of Borneo. Conditions were still a hotchpotch as the wind varied around the clock and rain squalls flattened the seas, leaving an undulating golf course like surface in the residual swell. At 1945 hrs on dusk we landed a nice mackerel, our first fish caught trolling for a number of years, as I enjoyed a couple of Corona beers and the girls Jeruk Nipis for sundowners. It was still lumpy and bumpy but 1000% better than our leg up to Tg. Api.
5th January 1997
We were constantly headed during the night but were making good progress in almost the right direction. There was lots of shipping further out to sea on our port side and we dropped the genoa and motored again at 0945hrs to avoid a Malaysian fishing trawler. Getting past Tg. Bruit became a difficult task in brown muddy waters with 15kts of northerly and an apparent counter current. We raised the genoa at 1425hrs after 5 hours of crawling around the shallow waters of Tg. Bruit and headed east only to be promptly headed with the wind shifting to the east! The genoa was dropped as the wind strengthened and an ugly cross seas developed with the wind change and we headed NNW towards Hong Kong in washing machine like conditions. Our previous high spirits sank as we realized this leg promised to be no different to the previous leg to Tg. Api and we quickly conducted a belated King Neptune party for our equator crossing. We assumed the Gods were not pleased with our postponement and conditions would not be eased or rectified until we had fulfilled our thank you celebration. Cardboard crowns were cut out of cartons, a Neptune fork constructed from a bristle broom and we chanted, sang, prayed whilst pouring sticky rice and sweet soy sauce over oureselves in waht we assumed to be appropriate for a Neptune party. The conditions required careful balance as the boat ducked and dived in bronco-like manner in extremely uncomfortable conditions. Formalities completed we tacked to port and sailed with yankee and mainsail as the wind veered to NNE at 25kts and sea conditions eased. Perhaps our pleas were being actioned???
6th January 1997
At 0049hrs in the pitch darkness a nosey freighter approached much too close to our stern on the same course until our spotlight directed onto their bridge resulted in them quickly changing course to pass close by our leeward side. The wind was heading us again having swung to ENE and we dropped the yankee and motored again directly into the building wind and seas. Thunderstorms developed and numerous fronts passed over drenching us and bringing back miserable conditions, necessitating numerous tacks in the confused conditions. The wind had a particular viciousness and vindictiveness allowing us no rest. We continued on motoring with the staysail raised to assist the mainsail in giving us a little lateral stability. Atik was close to disbelief as our supposed "easy" leg was also turning into a nightmare. A screaming northerly arrived at 1255hrs and with the wind and sea building here at 3 degrees north of the equator I was wondering what it was like in the windy higher lattitudes. We were travelling inside a major oil/gas field and the town and port of Bintulu appered a logical refuge and at 1800hrs we anchored inside the Bintulu Inner Harbour. A clean modern oil terminal in Sarawak, Malaysia sheltered us from the shrieking elements and we all went to sleep blissfully in zero swell conditions.
7th January 1997
A day of making things shipshape and contacting the outside world. The Harbour Police came onboard for morning coffee and offered their assistance and Bruce off catamiran "Mata mata" en-route from the Philippines came for a chat. He had been in Port Bintulu for three months making repairs before continuing to Singapore and Langkawi. At 1600 hrs the Harbour Police took us in their van into town (a 15 minute trip) where we made phone calls to advise of "our return from the deep", then a meal and fresh food shopping from local supermarkets and Pasar malam along with 100 litres of diesel.
8th January 1997
Oil and filter change for the engine, filled diesel tanks to 90%, we had consumed only 150 litres of diesel fuel despite running the engine for 100 hours since departure from Jakarta. The for'd navigation lights on the bowsprit were re-wired as the connectors had corroded after being doused so frequently in sea-water. water tanks and all available water bottles were filled with crystal clear drinking water from a hose at the harbour Police Jetty,- what a luxury!! We were invited to evening snacks and drinks by Peter the dredgemaster on an adjacent Dutch owned Bucket-Ladder dredge doing deepening work. We enjoyed Peter's hospitality and returned full of good cheer to a wet boat. It had rained down our open hatches whilst we were deep inside the dredges saloon.
9th January 1997
We cleared the Bintulu Breakwater at 1025hrs, fresh and rested after our 3 night stay and motorsailed under staysail and mainsail into a sloppy head seas, (nothing had changed outside). We had a series of fronts throughout the day and night to keep us on our toes as we hobbyhorsed our way NE. The girls cooked ikan asin, which they had purchased in the Pasar at Bintulu and consumed them with copious amounts of chilli and the boat smelt accordingly. At 2250hrs truckloads of rain descended and with visibility zero in the darkness we had to rely on the radar to keep track of adjacent ships and fishing boats which appeared from all directions.
10th January 1997
Midnight and diabolical conditions, rain and more rain, pitch black and the seas like a washing machine again, bouncing us all over the ocean and boats everywhere. My hands and feet were pasty white and puckered as if I had been washing dishes for a week then at 0300hrs in a 30kt northerly that threatened to tear the mainsail to pieces, the log went out and the auto-pilot bracket on the tiller sheared (these occurrences always seem to happen at night). We hove to whilst a hole was drilled and new pin inserted into the tiller, then the stars came out and normality returned, the girls fast asleep below oblivious to all the drama. At 0545hrs just before dawn an oil tanker turned to starboard across our bows after being on a parallel course north for the past hour. She was on a determined new course and wasn't interested in our presence as we had to reverse quickly to avoid collision and swing abruptly to port. I was tempted to utilize our flares to illuminate their bridge towering above us as they powered on leaving us in a frothy wake. We were now in the midst of the Brunei -East Malaysian Oilfields and their mid-ocean space-age like structures and platforms. The wind dropped out during the morning before resuming its northerly blast in the afternoon directly on our nose. We motored on, squeezing our way along the Brunei coast during the night approximately 5 miles offshore and inshore from infamous Brunei patches, a dangerous area of shallow water. Rain inevitably came down in buckets again reducing visibility and requiring radar vigilance.
11th January 1997
We had lost track of days again, another new day arrived then at 0223hrs a real doozie of an electrical storm erupted as we were gradually drawing up beside a tug with a large steel barge in tow. Lightening and thunder were on top of us for half an hour with the wind shrieking in from all directions. Even with the mainsail reduced to double reef it threatened to shake itself apart as we motor-sailed plugging slowly NE. We seemed in danger of getti ng fried from the proximity of the lightening strikes and then the auto-pilot went on the blink when the circuit breaker was tripped. No amount of resetting would resume its functioning which had reversed, necessitating manual steering to avoid getting caught in the adjacent barge tow. When the electrical storm had passed Ratna hand steered until dawn allowing me some sleep and at dawn with the help of the manual and fresh mind, the autopilot was reprogrammed and functioned correctly again. At 0800hrs we motor-sailed past the western shores of Labuan island, a duty-free commercial and tourist centre off the western coast of Sabah, Malaysia. We were closing in on our destination and Mt. Kinabalu (13,500feet) was visible ahead!! At 1007hrs the wind came up abeam then astern for the first time on the trip but we were not going to be lured into any complacency so whilst shaking the reefs out of the main we continued under motor to make as much NE progress as possible. At 1310hrs we had a beautiful westerly up our stern a week too late and we gybed, then gybed again to round Pl. Tiga where we anchored off the eastern shore for the night. We were joined by two other yachts who had departed Kota Kinabalu in the morning headed for Labuan and were making hard work beating into the freshh westerly, their turn now.
12th January 1997
We raised anchor at 0900hrs after an uncomfortable night at anchor as the westerly had been replaced by a very vigorous easterly land breeze turning our anchorage into a very exposed one on a lee shore. WE had swum, showered and breakfasted and the wind dropped as we motored into a light 5 knot northerly on flat seas towards our destination. We finally anchored off Tg. Aru amongst other yachts and motorboats at anchor and on moorings at Kota Kinabalu. THE EPIC WAS OVER!!!
had an uneasy feeling prior to this trip and could not rationalize the
apprehension. Piracy concerns were prompted by a November hijacking of a tanker
east of Singapore and friends the Lamble's experience near Bintan Indonesia. I
purchased a second-hand flare-pistol and fist full of WWII star flares in
Tanjung Priok before departure in an attempt to exhibit some self-defence. These
were not required, it must have been the horrible weather that my bones were
forewarning, there was certainly nothing else untoward experienced. There are
sailing directions based on years and miles of ocean passages that should have
been heeded. "Use the prevailing winds". In other words this would
have been a pleasant cruise in the SE monsoon season (April-November), and not
such a forgettable journey.