1 October 2015 Lovina Beach to Karimunjawa, (Day 3)
We sighted land at nine o'clock in the morning and, a couple of hours later, dropped anchor in Karimunjawa in 20 metres of water. There are six other boats here including "Red Herring" who arrived a few hours ahead of us.
The wind was howling at 25 knots with katabatic gusts up to 40 knots, so we stayed on board for the rest of the day. The main anchorage is at the end of a narrow channel between two islands, which is subject to a lot of current. There was also some swell from the strong SE winds coming through the channel, so we were bouncing about.
The constant motion was annoying, so we moved and found a place to the east of the main anchorage. It took us three attempts to find a spot amongst the reefs. We couldn't find anywhere shallower than 18 metres, but at least we're out of the worst of the choppy water. We've only got 60 metres of chain, so with only 3:1 scope, I'm a little worried that we might drag in these katabatic gusts.
Ray and Shona from "Parlay" came over for a few beers in the evening.
2 October 2015 Karimunjawa
It blew a hooley all night and shows no sign of letting up. The shrieking gusts are very wearing, but the anchor is holding well - I'm glad that I bought a Rocna anchor in New Zealand.
We dinghied ashore and tied up at the shore end of the pier, where we were met by Alex from the tourist office. He welcomed us and said that there was a “Gala” dinner on the 7th October and that, if we wanted, he could organise fuel, water and laundry.
The town is a sleepy little place. There are hardly any shops, just a market that is open very early in the morning. The town seems to survive on tourism and fishing, although tourists are very scarce at the moment because the ferry from the mainland isn't running due to the strong winds. We saw quite a few small hotels and "home-stays" and found a lovely bar/restaurant on the shore called Café Amore. There are a couple of dive operators, who have quoted 700,000 rupiah ($49US) for a 2-tank dive, so we'll try to organise a group.
Back on the boat, the wind was still howling, so we couldn't be bothered to go snorkelling and chilled out the rest of the day - napping and reading.
3 October 2015 Karimunjawa
Together with "Red Herring", we hired motor scooters and went for a drive around the island. There's only one road and that follows the coast line. I say road with its loosest meaning - there has been an attempt to lay a proper tarmacadam road, but it's now in a very poor state being mostly potholes and gravel. It's a challenge to get up to 20 mph.
There's not a great deal to see on the island, but it was fun just driving around with hardly any other traffic. We stopped off at Tanging Gelam Beach, where we had to pay an entrance fee of 4,000 rupiah ($0.40US). When we walked onto the beach and we were very surprised to find ten or so eating places set up on the beach under tarpaulins. They were all manned and touting for our business, so I guess when the ferry is running, tourists must be brought out here by boat.
The highlight of the tourist circuit is the Mangrove Boardwalk Trail, which is (errrr) an elevated board walk through some mangroves. Joking apart, there's a high viewing tower at the half-way point on the circular trail, which gives great views over the estuary at the edge of the mangroves.
As we headed back to town, we stopped off at a nice little roadside Warung and ate the ubiquitous Nasi Goreng and Mei Asam. When we arrived back in town, we continued heading east past the main town passing through a small village. We then came onto a block-paved road which leads to a couple of beaches on the windward side of the island (which are unfortunately covered in flotsam). The paved road is in very good condition and fun to ride along.
Back on Alba, the wind was still howling and is starting to drive us crazy.
4 October 2015 Karimunjawa
We went on a diving trip with Graham from "Red Herring". The dive boat was one of the narrow, local wooden boats, but this one had three, single-stroke diesel engines. This was good because we could get back home if one failed, but the noise from their un-silenced exhausts was incredibly loud.
They took us to the northern tip of the island, against the wind and waves, so we soon had walls of water sweeping over the decks. After twenty minutes of getting wet, we were all starting to get chilled, so we had to hide inside the boat, sitting on boards directly above the engines. It was nice and warm in this "cabin", but my ears are probably irreparably damaged by the noise.
Our first dive was on a ship wreck in depths ranging from 5 metres to 20 metres. There was a small mooring there (I guess around 05:47.53S 110:26.93E). Unfortunately, the visibility was very poor - maybe 10 metres. It was an interesting dive though, and the dive master "Black" was pretty good at pointing out small creatures for me to photograph, including a juvenile Kubaryana's Nebrotha which was only 6mm long - I need to buy a magnifying glass for my tired old eyes.
The second dive was at Menjangan Kecil Island, which is only a mile or so from the yacht anchorage. We descended to a wooded wreck at 20 metres and then headed north east along a reef. (I would guess that the wreck is around 05:53.41S 110:24.17E.) The dive was okay, but the visibility was poor again - only small creatures could be photographed - we found a nice Halgerta-like Taringa.
We were back on board Alba by two o'clock, had lunch, washed our dive gear, had a nap and the day was gone.
5 October 2015 Karimunjawa
The wind has started to drop, which is a relief. There's a good 3G internet connection here, so we did some admin in the morning. Our visas expire on the 28th October and we've heard that the Indonesian immigration levy a fine of $30US per person per day to anyone over-running their visa. Knowing how inefficient the authorities are, we want to be clearing out a few days early.
The rally is supposed to clear out at Nongsa Point marina on the 28th October, but "Full Circle" have told us that they were charged $200US to clear out plus $50 per day to stay on a dock while the marina staff slowly sorted out the paperwork. After a flurry of emails with Sail Indonesia and the local representative at Bangka Tengah, we've finally got confirmation that we can clear out at Ketawi Island on the 19th October. The local committee even says that they will pay for any charges, so it sounds like a good option and we're going for it.
The only problem with this plan is that Bangka Tengah is 250 miles from Singapore, so we'll have a lot of sailing after we've cleared out. Our strategy is to take five or six days to do this distance, stopping at remote anchorages overnight, mostly because it's dodgy sailing at night between the many small islands on the way -there are too many fishing boats and FADS.
I went for a snorkel on the reefs close to the anchorage, but there were thousands of jellyfish near the surface, so I gave up, went back to the boat and started to clean off the hundreds of Gooseneck Barnacles from our hull. The water line was particularly bad with a three-inch wide band of the damn things on the stern.
In the evening, Karen and Graham from "Red Herring" invited us over for a guitar session followed by dinner.
6 October 2015 Karimunjawa
I had another morning of administration. Now that we've worked out when and where we will clear-out, I wanted to plan our route from Karimunjawa to Bangka Tengah. The next rally stop is supposed to be at a place called Manggar on the large island of Belitung. The organisers are very keen to get the rally to go there and are even offering an incentive of 100 litres of diesel for free.
Unfortunately, the anchorage is up a river estuary with a shallow bar across the entrance and no-one knows just how shallow it is. To make matters worse, the tidal information that we have looks strange, so I don't trust it. I've sent off emails to Sail Indonesia and the local committee at Manggar, but the info is very confusing. They can't seem to grasp the difference between tidal range and the actual depth of water at high tide. As far as I understand, we might have anything between 1.5 to 3 metres at high tide - we draw 2.0 metres, so it's very tight. By the end of the day, I was no further forward and frustrated.
In the afternoon, we went for a scuba dive on the wreck off Menjangan Kecil Island with John from “Millennium” and Peter from “Per Ardua”. The visibility was a bit better now that the strong winds have dropped. I managed to find the wreck and we saw a nice Lovely Headshield Slug.
Chris and Sara from “Tulu” invited us over for drinks with Paul & Susie from “Firefly”, we were all Brits, so it was a good evening. It's much harder talking to foreigners - even Kiwis and Aussies have a different sense of humour. "Firefly" are planning to sail up to Kumai in Borneo to see the Orang-utans, because they've heard that the smoke from the forest fires is much less now.
7 October 2015 Karimunjawa
I woke up with a bee in my bonnet about going to Borneo to see the Orang-utans. I spent most of the day working out a plan. The route from here is 200 miles on a course of 030 degrees, so with the wind forecast to be at 120 degrees, we should be on a close reach, but hopefully not too hard on the wind.
I contacted a couple of companies who run trips up the river to the Orang-utan sanctuaries and found out that it costs $250US to go for a three day trip with two people and only $25US less if there are four people on the boat, so we don't need to get stressed up about going alone.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast in Kumai for the 11th and 12th October is for heavy rain and thunderstorms, so we'll have to plan to start our river trip on the 13th. This means that we'll have to miss out the next two rally stops at Manggar and NW Belitung, but we'd rather go up and see the jungle river. We decided to go for it and we'll leave Karimunjawa the day after tomorrow.
In the evening, we went ashore for the "Gala Dinner". It started off well at four o'clock with some cruisers getting dressed up in traditional Javanese costumes. We politely refused because it was hot enough in shorts and t-shirts never mind a full length sarong, long sleeved shirt and hat. Unfortunately, the event then lapsed into chaos. They quickly ran out of cold beer (we didn’t get any) and then the locals disappeared, presumably to go to prayers and family stuff.
By six o'clock, I'd had enough hanging about. There were rumours of dinner being at eight o'clock, but no sign of it happening, so Glenys and I wandered off to the Cafe Amore, where we found "Catamini" and four other cruisers drinking cold Bintang and ordering a meal - we joined them.
We staggered back to the gala dinner well after eight o'clock, had a few nibbles from the buffet and then watched some tedious dancing acts, before sloping off back to the boat. Not the best event we've attended - it was so bad that I didn't take a single photograph.
8 October 2015 Karimunjawa
We were on standby today, waiting to sail to Borneo tomorrow morning, so I had another morning of administration. Today’s focus was planning how to get from Bangka to Singapore.
Once we clear out of Indonesia in Bangka, we won't be able to go ashore anywhere and it's over 250 miles to Singapore. Our route takes us through a myriad of small islands and I'm expecting to encounter a large number of fishing boats, FADs and nets, so sailing overnight is not a good idea.
After a few iterations, I've worked out a plan that will involve one overnight sail and five one-day hops between anchorages. All of the anchorages are in remote places, so I'm hoping that we don't have any problems with the authorities. Our final anchorage will be at a small island called Kepalajerih, which is only 15 miles from the quarantine anchorage in Singapore.
Having worked out a timetable, I've even booked a berth at a posh marina in Singapore from the 30th October. We plan to stay there for five nights to do some serious shopping, before heading up the west coast of Malaysia to meet our son Craig and his girlfriend Kristen in Langkawi.
In the afternoon, I donned my snorkelling gear and spent a couple of hours diving down to finish off cleaning the hull and then got ready to sail tomorrow. In a blinding show of seamanship, I worked out how to get up the river to Kumai. It's a bit tricky, so I'm glad that I spent an hour plotting a route today rather than (as usual) leaving it until we're nearly there.
9 October 2015 Karimunjawa to Kumai, Borneo (Day 1)
We were up with the pre-dawn Call to Prayer and left at 0515. Once clear of the island, we had a 15-20 knot wind from the ESE which put us close-hauled at 60 degrees to the wind. We were hoping that we'd be on a beam reach, but hey ho! It was very boisterous, and we were heeled over at 20 degrees, but at least we were doing 6-7 knots.
My 7-10 night watch was very busy because we crossed a major shipping lane, which was made considerably worse by hundreds of brightly lit fishing boats slowly dredging across our path. I'm surprised that there are any fish left in Indonesia.
Even after dark, it was very hot and humid and we were taking the occasional big wave, so the main hatch into our aft cabin was firmly closed. This made our bedroom very hot and stuffy, so it was difficult to sleep. We decided to open a small hatch in the aft heads to try to get a little bit of air flowing - BIG mistake.
We took a huge wave over the bow, a wall of water swept along the side deck, hit the small hatch and gallons of water hosed through the hatch. I just happened to be down below at the chart table when it happened. The shower tray in heads was completely flooded and we had one inch of water on the floor of the aft cabin, which then flooded along the corridor towards the saloon. Fortunately, it didn't quite make it past the chart table.
The carpets were soaked and the woodwork in the aft cabin was wet up to waist height - what a mess. I closed the hatch, drained the shower tray in the aft heads, pulled up the carpets and then dried everything with a few towels. We'll had to wash everything down with fresh water when we get there.
We survived the rest of the night.
10 October 2015 Karimunjawa to Kumai, Borneo (Day 2)
Kumai is 15 miles up a river and, at dawn, we only had 25 miles to go to the River entrance - we'd made excellent time averaging well over six knots. It seemed to take forever to get to the entrance and the last ten miles was in water under ten meters, which was a little perturbing, but it shallowed very, very slowly.
I'd plotted a route up the river using a set of waypoints gleaned from various sources and there was no problem. The minimum depth that we saw on a rising tide was about 3.5 metres. The waypoints were:
The route goes close to a headland and then does an s-bend around a sand spit and a buoy. As we were going along the headland, a big freighter was slowly catching us up, so I slowed down and let him past. This wasn't solely for courtesy, it allowed me to "cheat" and follow him through the s-bend, which is the shallowest bit.
Once in the river itself, life was a lot easier, but the visibility reduced to a couple of hundred metres with some hazy smoke from the forest fires. We also had to dodge a few fishing nets strung across part of the river, which were marked by a flagged buoy on one end and a small fishing boat on the other.
At about three o'clock in the afternoon, we anchored on the opposite side of the river to Kumai town, next to “Firefly” and “You You”. Kumai is a major port with many freight ships at anchor and alongside the various port jetties. Small “Klotok” local boats chug up and down the river and there’s a jetty just across the river from where we are anchored with river boats rafted up ready to take tourists up to the National Park.
We had heard that there was some kind of trip planned for tomorrow, so instead of relaxing for the afternoon, we dropped the dinghy in the water and went ashore to see Harry’s Yacht Services. Harry is the main point of contact here for visiting yachts and is the local coordinator for the Sail Indonesia Rally.
There have been some Sail Indonesia events over the past few days, but now there's only "You You" and us to go on the final trip to see a Dayak village and a festival tomorrow. The bad news is that we have to be on a coach by six o'clock in the morning. While we were ashore, we confirmed with Harry that we want to go on a three day boat trip starting on the 13th.
Back on the boat, the smog became considerably worse as evening fell and the town of Kumai disappeared into the gloom as visibility dropped to less than 50 metres.
11 October 2015 Kumai, Borneo
We had another early start and were ashore just before six o’clock. Together with James and Cindy from “You You”, we were put on a coach and travelled for FIVE hours to a village, 160 kilometres north of Kumai. It should have been 3½ hours, but at least they stopped half way and bought us breakfast - turmeric rice, fish and a spicy boiled egg (yummy!)
It might have been a long drive, but it was interesting. We saw patches of native rain forest, but the predominant vegetation was Palm Oil trees - miles and miles and miles of them.
When I first heard of the Palm Oil plantations in Borneo, I thought that it would be local farmers with small plantations. Not so, this is a huge industry and it’s responsible for massive destruction of the Rain Forest and the current fires and smoke affecting not only Borneo, but neighbouring Singapore, 500 miles downwind.
One of the biggest drivers of deforestation in Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo) is the growth of oil palm plantations. Palm Oil is the most important and cheapest tropical vegetable oil in the global oils and fats industry. Malaysia and Indonesia account for over 90 per cent of the world's total oil palm production area, and the importance of these countries for this commodity is likely to increase in the future as demand soars.
Within Indonesia, oil palm production expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to over 6 million hectares by 2007 - that’s HALF the size of England. The demand is expected to double in the next decade, and the Indonesian government has responded by setting a target to increase oil palm production from 20 million tonnes in 2009 to 40 million tonnes in 2020.
Oil palm development contributes to deforestation - directly and indirectly. About half of all presently productive plantations in Kalimantan were established in primary forest and bush areas. The traditional (and most common) way of clearing the land is by “Slash and Burn”, this is a cheap method and the ash fertilises the land, but the process causes huge areas of Borneo to be covered with choking smoke.
When left undisturbed, Borneo’s natural forests are not usually prone to fires. But as forests are opened up by humans, they dry out and are increasingly susceptible to fire. Fire and haze produce many adverse effects ranging from impacts on human health, short and long-term medical treatment costs, losses in tourism and forfeited timber revenue. The ability of forests to regenerate following large fires is greatly weakened.
The roads that we travelled on were new and very good, no doubt built by the tax revenues that the Palm Oil industry generates - one good side effect. We saw truckloads of the Palm Oil Fruit being carted off in open top trucks heading for the ports.
After five hours on the road, we eventually arrived at the small village of Riam Tinggi in the Lamandau regency. This is a traditional village of the Dayak people, high in the central hills of Borneo, next to a river.
The Dayaks are the indigenous people in central Borneo, having arrived in Kalimantan as a migration from other parts in Asia about 3000 years ago. The early European settlers in Borneo had problems with the tribal and sometimes aggressive behaviour of the Dayak people, who were feared for their traditional headhunting practises. They kept the heads of their enemies in sealed jars that could only be opened by another warrior who had taken another head.
After mass conversions to Christianity, and anti-headhunting legislation by the colonial powers in the late 1800s, the practice was banned and appeared to have disappeared. However, it's reared its ugly head a few times when there has been unrest and was actively encouraged by the Allies during the Second World War against the Japanese Occupation of Borneo.
Incredibly, as recent as 2001, there were some conflicts between the Dayaks and settlers from a nearby island of Madura, where over 1,000 Madurese were massacred, many being decapitated and the heads displayed as trophies. The Indonesian authorities tried to arrest the ringleaders, but the Dayak people rioted and the police backed off.
The Dayaks live in longhouses, which are elevated wooden buildings that can be hundreds of meters long, often located along a river bank. These longhouses are home to multiple families and are divided into a public area along one side and a row of private living quarters lined along the other side.
We were greeted at the entrance to the village with a traditional ceremony. The entrance into the village was blocked by an arch under which lay two bamboo poles as a barrier. Three of our party had to approach the barrier and ask for permission to enter. These three people (including Glenys) were dressed in traditional outfits including a sarong, a sleeveless jacket, a machete and a weird pointed hat. After drinking some strong alcoholic drink, they chopped through the barrier and we were allowed into the village.
We wandered around the village for a while and were shown the village’s head-hunting pot (which is treated as a kind of shrine) and several Long Houses. They also have a number of small buildings in the village that are used specifically to store rice, which are on wooden stilts and have a wooden disk on each stilt to prevent rodents getting to the rice - very similar to the rat catcher disks used on the shore lines of ships.
The coach took us back to Nanga Bulik, the main town of Lamandau regency - another two hours sat on a coach. When we arrived, an event called the "Festival of a Thousand Masks" was in full swing.
Kalimantan is a centre for immigration of Indonesians from more populated areas, so there are many ethnic groups and tribes in the area. This festival is a new event and aims to allow all the different ethnic groups to display some of their culture including traditional costumes, music and dances. The Dayak tribes have a tradition of using brightly painted masks for ceremonies and traditional dances, which depict animals and spirits, hence the name of the festival.
We were very late so didn't get to meet the Regent and other honoured guests, but at least we didn't have to sit through the interminable speeches. We were allowed to sit at the front of the guest pavilions to watch the traditional dancing and parades. It was very interesting and, again, they don’t see many orang-bules here, so we were constantly being asked to have our photo taken with the locals.
After a grand parade marking the end of the festival, we were loaded back on the coach for a 3.5 hour trip back to Kumai. Back on Alba, we found that Harry had put a young guy on-board to look after the boat while we were away, which is a great service. We had a quick sandwich and collapsed into bed.
12 October 2015 Kumai, Borneo
We had a late start pottering about. Tom and Susie on “Adina” arrived mid-morning, so tomorrow, we’ll definitely be going on our planned 3-day trip up-river to see the Orang-utans.
After a quick chat with Tom and Susie, catching up on the last year, we walked into town. Despite the shipping activity on the waterfront, Kumai is a dusty little place with a single road that follows the riverside, lined with the port activities on one side and small single-story shops and Warungs on the other side. Towering above the shops are drab concrete buildings some five or six stories high.
The bizarre thing about these towering structures is that they have no windows. Instead, the walls are dotted with small holes and are actually huge bird houses, designed to attract White-nest Swiftlets. These small swifts are native to the region and use saliva secreted from glands under their tongue as binding material to build their nests. It’s these Edible Bird Nests, which have led to the profusion of the dreary buildings that dominate the skyline.
The bird farmers are secretive about how they attract the Swiftlets - but part of the method is playing recordings of their song through loudspeakers, which creates a constant, twittering background noise. Each building houses an average of 1,000 birds, so the skies are full with tens of thousands of birds flitting about.
Bird’s Nest Soup is considered a delicacy in China and has been a part of Chinese cookery for more than 1,000 years. Used largely as a thickener, it can be simmered with sugar for a dessert or cooked with meat for a savoury soup and fans dub the soup the "Caviar of the East". I can eat most things, but I’m afraid the concept of eating dried bird spit revolts me.
We wandered to the market and bought some vegetables. There won’t be much opportunity to buy food between here and Singapore, so we were hoping to do some major provisioning to last us for the next three weeks. Alas, the pickings were very, very slim indeed. We struggled to buy simple things like orange juice and there was no way that we could find western luxuries like breakfast cereal - it looks like we'll be eating boiled rice and hard-boiled egg in chili sauce for breakfast from now on.
After a huge, cheap lunch at a Warung, we headed back to the boat and chilled out for the afternoon. It’s been very hot all day and the humidity has been oppressive.
In the middle of the afternoon, we heard the loud rumble of thunder and the occasional flash of lightning, but we only had a short splattering of heavy raindrops. It would be nice to have a heavy down-pour to clean our decks - we haven’t see rain for months. However, the thunderstorm seemed to clear the air and it was (thankfully) a little cooler in the evening.
13 October 2015 Kumai, Borneo
The 50 foot long Klotok (river boat) pulled alongside Alba at half past eight. We jumped aboard with our small bags of luggage and a young man stepped onto Alba to look after our home while we are away. We've locked the boat up, so the guy will be living and sleeping in the cockpit for the next three days. Food and water will be delivered out to him regularly, but we've left him some packets of biscuits and a bottle of coke as a treat.
Together with Tom and Susie from "Adina", we're going on a 3-day, 2-night trip up a jungle river into the Tanjung Puting National Park hoping to see the endangered Bornean Orangutan. This National Park covers an area of 4,000 square kilometres and is one of five such reserves in Kalimatan.
Here's some information that I've gathered on the Bornean Orangutan from various sources:
The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is a species of orangutan native to the island of Borneo. Together with the Sumatran orangutan, it belongs to the only genus of great apes native to Asia. Like the other great apes, orangutans are highly intelligent, displaying advanced tool use and distinct cultural patterns in the wild. Orangutans share approximately 97% of their DNA with humans.
They live in tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Bornean lowlands, as well as mountainous areas up to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) above sea level. This species lives throughout the canopy of primary and secondary forests, and moves large distances to find trees bearing fruit. It is an endangered species, with deforestation, palm oil plantations and hunting posing a serious threat to its continued existence.
The Bornean orangutan has a distinctive body shape with very long arms that may reach up to 1.5 metres in length. It has a coarse, shaggy, reddish coat and prehensile, grasping hands and feet. It is the third-heaviest living primate after the two species of gorilla, and the largest truly arboreal (or tree-dwelling) animal alive today. A survey of wild orangutans found that males weigh on average 75 kg (165 lb), females average 38.5 kg (85 lb).
The diet of an orangutan is composed of over 400 types of food, including wild figs, durians, leaves, seeds, bird eggs, flowers, honey, insects, and bark. They get the necessary quantities of water from both fruit and from tree holes and occasionally eat soil to get minerals that may neutralize the toxins and acids they consume in their primarily vegetarian diets.
Bornean orangutans are more solitary than their Sumatran relatives. Two or three orangutans with overlapping territories may interact, but only for short periods of time. Although orangutans are not territorial, adult males will display threatening behaviours upon meeting other males, and only socialize with females to mate. The Bornean orangutan has a lifespan of 35–45 years in the wild; in captivity it can live to be about 60.
Males and females generally come together only to mate. Sub-adult males (unflanged) will try to mate with any female and will be successful around half the time. Dominant flanged males will call and advertise their position to receptive females, who prefer mating with flanged males. Adult males will often target females with weaned infants as mating partners because the female is likely to be fertile.
Newborn orangutans nurse every three to four hours, and begin to take soft food from their mothers' lips by four months. During the first year of its life, the young clings to its mother's abdomen by entwining its fingers in and gripping her fur. Offspring are weaned at about four years, but this could be much longer, and soon after they start their adolescent stage of exploring, but always within sight of their mother. During this period, they will also actively seek other young orangutans to play with and travel with.
The Bornean orangutan is more common than the Sumatran, with about 54,500 individuals in the wild, whereas only about 6,600 Sumatran orangutans are left in the wild. Orangutans are becoming increasingly endangered due to habitat destruction and the bushmeat trade, and young orangutans are captured to be sold as pets, usually entailing the killing of their mothers.
A survey, based on interviews with 6,983 respondents in 687 villages across Kalimantan in 2009, gave estimated orangutan killing rates of between 750 and 1800 in the year leading up to April 2008. These killing rates were higher than previously thought and confirm that the continued existence of the orangutan in Kalimantan is under serious threat. The survey did not quantify the additional threat to the species due to habitat loss from deforestation and expanding palm-oil plantations. The survey found that 73% of respondents knew orangutans were protected by Indonesian law.
However, the Indonesian government rarely prosecutes or punishes perpetrators. In a rare prosecution in November 2011, two men were arrested for killing at least 20 orangutans and a number of long-nosed proboscis monkeys. They were ordered to conduct the killings by the supervisor of a palm oil plantantion, to protect the crop, with a payment of $100 for a dead orangutan and $22 for a monkey.
According to an anthropologist at Harvard University, orangutans are expected to be extinct in the wild in 10 to 20 years, unless serious effort is made to overcome the threats they are facing.
It took us four hours to travel 40 miles up the winding river to Camp Leaky, the first research camp that we visited. This camp belongs to the Orangutan Foundation International, founded by Dr Birute Galdikas in 1971, to study orangutans in their natural environment.
The foundation also rescues and rehabilitates orangutans from all over Borneo, preparing them for release back into protected areas of the Indonesian rain forest. There are currently over 300 orangutans in their rehabilitation centre about 20 miles inland from Kumai. Injured or captured orangutans are treated in a world-class veterinary clinic and then helped by 200 volunteers to cope with being re-released into the wild. The major focus is to teach young orphans by giving them daily lessons in a controlled rainforest environment.
Most of the orangutans in the Tanjung Puting National Park are wild, with some having been released after rehabilitation. At three of the research camps, the staff have daily feedings to supplement the diet of the newly released orangutans (and any others who want to turn up.) Bowls of sweetened cow's milk and piles of bananas are placed on a rough wooden platform and the 10-30 tourists keep their distance, sitting on rough wooden benches behind a rope fence.
It seems to be a contrived tourist attraction, until one remembers that these are wild animals that live in the rain forest. Being solitary animals, they turn up individually and randomly, and some days none come at all.
We were lucky, four individuals turned up at our first two-hour long feeding session, including two mothers with their youngsters clinging to their fur. The first indication of an approaching orangutan is the sound of tree branches rustling. Then movement can be seen as the large ape swings slowly between trees. We watched in fascination as one orangutan perched high on a slender tree above us and then used a pendulum-like motion to slowly swing closer and closer to the next tree.
Descending from the trees, the orangutans were very cautious, seeming to ignore us tourists, but stopping eating at the slightest noise from the surrounding dense rain forest. The babies are very cute and the youngsters are playful. The human like gestures and facial expressions are amusing and our two hours was soon over, so we returned to the boat looking forward to more feeding sessions tomorrow.
The boat has two decks and is well designed. The roofed top deck is for guests and has a long dining table, two toilets and an open foredeck with four comfy wicker chairs, where we can sit in comfort to gaze at the rainforest passing by. At night, four mattresses are brought up onto our deck, made up into double beds and surrounded by mosquito nets. It's very comfortable. The lower deck houses the kitchen, the engine room and accommodation for the four crew, consisting of the boat captain, a deck hand, a cook and our guide (Rusty).
Our boat chugged back down the river to another camp, where after dark, we went out for a short night hike in the rain forest, where we were shown nocturnal Tarantulas, fluorescent fungi and strange caterpillars. After a fabulous dinner, we retired to bed.
14 October 2015 Kumai, Borneo
We were all awake just after dawn. The narrow river was covered by a dense fog caused by the smoke from the forest fires, but we could hear the songs of birds echoing through the jungle and saw the occasional flash of one of the four species of kingfisher that live along the river including the very colourful Stork-billed Kingfisher.
After a very western breakfast of omelette with French toast, we chugged further down the river to Camp 2 (Pondok Tangui). The river is fascinating. At the lower reaches, we saw secondary rain forest, which is recovering after the extensive logging in the area. Higher up the river, we were in primary rain forest and the river banks were lined with Pandanus growing in the fresh water. Water Hydrangeas float by in dense rafts and are pushed out of the way by the passing river boats.
The Pandanus is growing out from the river banks and, at times, the width of the water was less than the width of our boat, so we had to force our way through. Up in the trees, we spotted two types of monkey. Long-tailed Macaques chattered away and dashed about the trees close to the river bank, while the larger Proboscis Monkeys were more stately, sitting high in the trees and keeping well away from humans.
There was a feeding session at Camp 2 at nine o'clock, which was attended by quite a large group of 30 tourists, including some young Spanish ladies. Every one was very quiet at yesterday's feeding, but these young people had a very low threshold of silence and kept talking (despite Glenys telling them to shut up). I don't know if it was the chatter, but no orangutans turned up.
Disappointed, we went for a one hour walk with one of the camp staff, which was interesting. The guide pointed out several old orangutan nests. Orangutans are solitary creatures and, every night, they build a new nest every night from branches and leaves, high in a tree. They never use an old nest, but sometimes may stay in a nest several nights if there is plentiful food about. He also pointed out a Chameleon, beautifully camouflaged on a tree.
We were given another huge and tasty lunch consisting of large prawns cooked in a sweet and sour sauce, chicken curry, stir-fried vegetables, fried Tempe (a kind of soya), boiled rice and water melon for dessert. My waistline is visibly increasing.
Our captain moored us at Camp Leaky amongst eight or so other tourist boats and we walked to the feeding station with our guide Rusty for the afternoon session. What a show. The animals all seemed to arrive singly, eat their fill and then leave. Sometimes there was one orangutan on the platform, at other times up to three.
You could almost imagine a stage manager controlling them. "Berty, you go next. Try the high pendulum approach this time, they seem to like that. Emily, wait for a few minutes then go and sit on the other end of the platform, don't forget to show the baby to the crowd. Fred....."
The show was started with the arrival of a Black-handed Gibbon (called Boy). He came swinging in, making incredible leaps between the trees, plummeting earthwards and then just snagging a branch in time. He reached a tree at the side of the feeding station and after checking for threats, dropped onto the platform, grabbed two bunches of bananas and scurried back up the tree, lounging nonchalantly in the crook of a branch while he ate his fill. After a couple of trips to the feeding platform, he exited stage right.
We then had a steady procession of orangutans - mothers with babies, mothers with toddlers and adolescents. One of the young males wandered onto the platform and amusingly, before eating, went over to Boy's tree, leaned against the trunk and stared up, obviously checking for the Gibbon. I'm guessing that he's had a previous altercation with Boy. Our guide Rusty tells me that the Gibbon is a bit naughty and sometimes pees on people who walk under his tree.
All the orangutans seemed to love the sweetened cow's milk and the camp staff had to refill the large bowls several time. There seemed to be three techniques for drinking - the basic Head Plunge, the greedier Tip-the-Bowl and the hilarious Lower-Lip-Drip, where the milk is dribbled from the cupped hand into a protruding lower lip.
After the last of the orangutans wandered off, we heard rustling from the bushes and a small group of Wild Boar cautiously stepped into the clearing and headed for the platform, where they began to eat the discarded banana skins. A nice end to the day.
Back on the boat, we chugged down river to a very quiet spot, where we tied up in the Pandanus, with a great view of primary rain forest. After another tasty dinner and a few cocktails, (which we'd thoughtfully brought with us), we had an early night.
15 October 2015 Kumai, Borneo
After breakfast, we were taken back to Camp 2 again for the nine o'clock feeding. This time we were lucky. A young female met us on the board-walk going to the feeding station. She was sat quietly on the side and seemed unperturbed by our presence. After a couple of minutes, she climbed up into the nearby small trees and started eating leaves. It was fascinating to watch her so close by.
She then decided to swing across the trees just above the board-walk and ended up spread-eagled six foot above the platform. This was an ideal photo opportunity, so Susie and Glenys posed beneath the orangutan. It was all jolly good fun until the small branches gave way and the orangutan fell onto the board-walk a couple of feet in front of Susie. There was a tense moment while the orangutan shook herself and padded past the girls and stalked into the bush.
It took a while for the orangutans to arrive, but we soon had them in the trees all around us. Unlike at Camp Leaky, these orangutans seemed to like to hang around before coming to the platform, with juveniles playing acrobatic games with each other while mum sat watching or nibbling on tender leaves.
After our two hour orangutan fix, we were taken back down the river to a village where we went for a short stroll around. The village used to be on the south side of the river, but when the area was turned into a National Park, the villagers were relocated to the north side. There wasn't much of interest in the village - most people were out working at the nearby Palm Oil Plantation.
A few of the villagers had some souvenirs on display, but they were mostly poor quality carvings and baskets, so we didn't indulge.
After another excellent lunch, we went across the river to Camp 1 for an afternoon feeding session. Only a couple of other tourists were there and I didn't hold out much hope because Camp 1 (Pondok Tangui) is close to the village and is also the nearest camp to Kumai town.
The session started off very quietly, but then there was a slow but steady procession of orangutans wandering to the platform with the usual mothers and babies. Before long, there was some loud rustling in the trees and we all held our breath as a huge dominant male pushed his way through the bushes and onto the platform.
A dominant male controls a territory, which is gained by fighting other males. They develop "Flanges" on the sides of their face, which make them look very fierce. The male squatted on the edge of the platform, placidly eating bananas, ignoring the females and juveniles sharing the platform with him. After a while, he wandered off, but we could occasionally hear him in the bushes.
Another fully grown, but younger male started to quietly approach to the right of us. Suddenly, the dominant male started to crash through the trees towards the new arrival making loud rhythmic, whooping noises. The new arrival immediately turned tail and scooted off through the trees. The dominant male having seen his potential rival flee, stopped in a tree to the right of us and continued with his whooping call, but the frequency and volume slowly decreased like a steam train slowly stopping.
It was a scary reminder that the orangutans are wild animals, and it was a fabulous end to our time with these interesting animals.
We wandered back to the boat and were taken down river towards Kumai. The smoke became noticeably worse as we headed out of the rainforest and got to the point where my eyes were stinging and Susie & Glenys put on face masks.
It was just after dark before we arrived back at Alba. Thankfully, everything looked okay on-board. The trip has been fabulous and, at $175US per person, it's an incredible bargain. The food has been excellent, the quality of Rusty's guiding was superb and the boat was very comfortable. Harry’s Yacht Services provided a fabulous service (harryyachtservice.blogspot.co.id)
16 October 2015 Kumai to Ketawi, Bangka (Day 1)
We were up at seven, getting ready to sail 400 miles to Ketawi Island on Bangka. Apart from the usual chore of putting the dinghy on deck, Glenys had to spend half an hour washing down the bimini and the cockpit to remove the ash that has fallen out of the skies from the forest fires.
By nine o'clock, the anchor had been lifted and we were heading off into the gloom. The smoke was very bad and we only had 100 metres visibility. While motoring down the river, we had a couple of encounters - once with a tug towing a barge and the second with a large freighter. Neither had AIS, so they were a surprise as they loomed out of the fog and required us to make immediate and radical changes in direction to avoid them.
It took us 3 hours to get clear of the river and then we hit 15-20 knot winds from the south - right on the nose. The bay is very shallow for a long way and there are lots of sand banks, so we had to motor for another 2.5 hours before we could bear away 30 degrees and were able to sail, albeit still hard on the wind.
Thankfully, the wind backed slowly as we sailed away from the land and, by late afternoon, we had a 15-20 knot wind from the south-east, putting us on a pleasant beam reach. The smoke slowly cleared and by sunset, we had five miles visibility, but the sky was still very hazy, with the sun a baleful red disk, which faded away long before it reached the horizon.
We're having to take a very circuitous route because there are shallow, shifting sand banks that stick out 50 miles from Borneo's south-western corner, plus small islands and shoals on the north-east corner of Belitung. Our route starts off with a 100 mile leg at WSW; then we turn NW for 120 miles along a busy shipping lane past Belitung; and then we turn to port heading West to Bangka.
We had a very peaceful start to the night, with the wind slowly dropping to 10 knots and backing a little more putting us on a broad reach. As usual, we spent the night dodging fleets of fishing boats. On my 1-4 watch, we turned the corner around the sand banks, putting us on a NW course and I had to pole the genoa out to port. Unfortunately, the wind kept backing, so at our 4 am watch change, I was dancing on the foredeck, gybing the pole, genoa and the main sail.
17 October 2015 Kumai to Ketawi, Bangka (Day 2)
We had a lovely day's sail with wind at 10-15 knots from the SE putting us on a very broad reach with the wind over our starboard quarter. We've soon slipped into our routine, with Glenys sleeping in the morning and me in the afternoon. The seas were only about 1 metre and it was so calm that I spent the morning writing my blog and making a start at reviewing and editing the 500 photos that I took while in Kumai and the Tanjung Puting National Park. My target is to reduce this to 20-30 photos, but it might be difficult - those orangutans were so cute.
Glenys caught a Wahoo in the late afternoon and dragged me out of bed to help pull it on-board. It wasn't the biggest Wahoo that we've caught, but at a metre long, it's plenty for the two of us. Unfortunately, Glenys had already defrosted some beef for dinner, so no fish tonight.
We had a 1 knot current against us all day, so despite sailing at six knots all day, we made slow progress. The wind dropped a little after dark, so with the adverse current, we were only making 4 knots over the ground. At one o'clock, we gybed the main to starboard and poled the genoa to port as we started to head west around the top of Belitung. Unfortunately the current was still against us at 0.5 knot and then the wind died at four o'clock, so we were down to 2 knots, forcing me to start the engine.
18 October 2015 Kumai to Ketawi, Bangka (Day 3)
At daybreak, we were still motoring and had 160 miles to go, so we're expecting to arrive midday tomorrow. The wind picked up at half past eight, so I pulled out the sails and we had a lovely sail, coasting along at 5.5 knots through the water, but still with the damn 1 knot current against us.
At 1130, after Glenys had finished her morning nap, the wind speed was 10-12 knots, but we were only managing 4 knots over the ground with all our sails out. With 123 miles to go, we'd have to average 4.4 knots to arrive before night fall tomorrow, so I dragged out the asymmetrical spinnaker. This only increased our speed over the ground to 4.6 knots, but at least we've got a chance of getting there in daylight.
Two hours later, the wind had picked up to 15 knots and backed, so that the spinnaker was slightly in the lee of the main. We dropped the spinnaker, pole the genoa out to port, pulled out the stay sail and added 0.5 knot to our boat speed. For the rest of the afternoon, we did made great time with 6-7 knots hull speed and only a 0.5 knot current against us.
By sunset, we only had 90 miles to go, so we needed to slow down - typical! I put a very heavy reef in the main and the genoa and managed to slow us down to 5.5 knots over the ground, so our ETA is now mid-morning, but we'll see how we go. It's a bit tricky approaching the anchorage off Ketawi Island with reefs and sand bars dotted about, so I want to have good light.
We had a lovely sail overnight. However, the chart showed a submerged oil pipeline and a number of oil platforms, but we saw no sign of any lights - very worrying. As usual, we passed through a couple of fleets of fishing boats and a few ships, but not as bad as previous nights.
19 October 2015 Kumai to Ketawi Island, Bangka (Day 4)
Dawn found us 20 miles from our destination and sailing happily along at six knots over the ground. For the last ten miles, we encountered strange, large fishing platforms stood on stilts. At first, we didn't know what to think about them and we kept well away from the first few. The sea is shallow at 8-12 metres, so we were worried that they were positioned on shallow reefs or sand banks, but soon found out that they were (somehow) built in 12 metres depth.
These structures are constructed from rough wooden poles either lashed or nailed together and have a 10 * 10 metre square platform, with a small hut and a small outhouse. It appears that a fisherman lives on the platform for a few days, catching fish and a boat comes out to visit every day to pick up his catch.
There were four other boats already in the Ketawi Island anchorage and we found a spot in 8-10 metres in good holding mud (02:15.98S 106:19.38E), close to a shallow area to the north of a long dock. The 1/4 mile diameter island is covered with coconut palm trees and has a lovely white beach all around it. It's owned by the government and is normally deserted apart from a caretaker. Locals come out at weekends to camp and enjoy the place.
We wandered ashore to find that the tourist board has sent a group of over 20 people who have set up a large camp including a number of six-man tents for sleeping, a kitchen, a dining area and even a stage. A team of Search and Rescue guys have handled the logistics, school teachers have volunteered as cooks and the main man is a guy called Robby, who speaks excellent English.
We tied up on the substantial dock and were met by Robby who welcomed us and led us to the dining tent where we helped ourselves to a great Indonesian meal. Everyone was very friendly and made us very welcome. Robby ran through the program that they have arranged, which starts tomorrow with a welcome dinner, followed by a couple of days activities. Port clearance out of Indonesia should be done by the 23rd.
After a short walk about the camp, we retired back to the boat and chilled out for the rest of the day, recovering from four days at sea. Another six cruising boats arrived during the afternoon, so there was a big group of us for the fabulous evening meal that they prepared. A couple of enterprising ladies have set up small shops and one did a roaring trade in cold Bintang beer, until she sadly ran out. The vast consumption of beer is a wonder to the Indonesians, who are predominantly Muslim. She understands that she will need lots more tomorrow.
20 October 2015 Ketawi Island, Bangka
The day was a very quiet affair, pottering about doing a few chores. We went ashore for another huge and delicious lunch and spent a couple of hours catching up with friends who are trickling in. By the end of the day, there were over 20 yachts at anchor.
In the evening, we were served another buffet dinner and ate it in a covered pavillion in front of the stage that had been set up. There was plenty of free Bintang, which went down very well. We were treated to a couple of dances by a very professional group. The first dance was a kind of stylised martial art and the second an impressive fire dance involving spinning flaming poles and swinging fire on the end of ropes.
Everyone was then moved to a clearing amongst the coconut trees, where a 30 metre diameter circle has been constructed. Around the circumference was a one metre wide concrete "path" and in the centre, white sand. We took plastic chairs with us and sat around the edge of the circle, while we watched a game of Fire Football.
This was outrageous - the Elf and Safety in the UK would have a fit. A coconut is soaked in diesel and set alight. Two teams then kick and throw the flaming coconut around the circular pitch and try to get the "ball" through the goals set up at opposite sides. The rules appear to be similar to normal football, but you can also pick up and throw the flaming ball - I guess that you could run with it, if your hands were made from asbestos.
After a short demonstration match, a challenge was issued and a team of cruisers took to the field. Having drunk a few too many Bintangs by this point, I declined to participate, but we fielded a fair sized team. It was hilarious to watch, nobody knew what the score was, but everyone had a good time. Coconuts are very, very hard and the soft sand made passing the flaming ball a challenge, so there were many bruised and blistered feet the next morning.
21 October 2015 Ketawi Island, Bangka
Robby had everyone ashore by seven o'clock and loaded up on to four local boats for a trip to the main island of Bangka Tengha, six miles away. We arrived at the fishing port of Kurouw, where we were loaded onto three coaches.
Our first stop was at a junior school, where we were treated to a traditional dance performed by six young girls. Being in a fishing town, the dance was all about fishing and hunting for clams. After the dance we were herded into a classroom and served with small plates of clams, while teachers posed for selfies with us.
It was a short break and we were soon being put back on the coaches, stopping off at an ATM machine and a local market. Loaded with bags of vegetables, we were taken to the Regency headquarters and introduced to the Regent and listened to the obligatory speech.
The coaches took us to a nearby village where a traditional lunch had been prepared for us, which was delicious and plentiful. After eating, we had a short walk through a forest and then were taken to a village square where we watched a traditional game. This was a relay race, with one guy pushing another guy sat on a traditional wheelbarrow through a small obstacle course. It was very funny and the umpire was a lovely old guy, hamming it up with martial art movements as he enforced the rules.
The hour-long boat ride back to the anchorage was wet and wild as we pounded up-wind into the 1 metre waves. After the long day, we had a quiet night in, having egg and chips for dinner - we fancied something non-spicy for a change.
22 October 2015 Ketawi Island, Bangka
We chilled out in the morning. Eva from Sail Indonesia was sorting out the port clearances to leave Indonesia for all of the 20+ boats, so there was some administration to do and we were visited by a customs officer, who had come out specially to clear us all out. The realisation that we'll be in Singapore in a few days' time prompted me to start planning our next 12 months.
Our son, Brett is getting married in June, so everything has to revolve around a trip back to the UK in May/June. Alba's teak deck is starting to wear thin and will need replacing before we sell the boat (in five year's time), so I want to get it replaced in Thailand because it will be considerably cheaper than most other places. We'd like to do some land travel while we're in this area and want to visit Myanmar, Cambodia and Japan. On top of all of this, we need time to cruise the coastal waters of Malaysia and Thailand.
The weather is a major factor because the region is affected by monsoons. The North-east monsoon lasts from December to March bringing north-east winds. The South-west monsoon runs from July to October bringing south-west winds and heavy rain. So it's better to be on the West coast of the Malay Peninsula in December to March and the East coast from July to November.
Therefore, our broad plan is to spend November to April on the West coast of Malaysia and Thailand, then head to Singapore in May. We'll leave the boat there while we fly back to the UK for six weeks, then continue east and cruise the Eastern coast of Malaysia from July to September, returning to western Thailand from October to December. We aim to continue our circumnavigation by sailing to Sri Lanka in January 2017.
When we get to Thailand this December, we'll figure out when to get the teak deck replaced. I'm guessing that we'll be in a boatyard for a couple of months, so we can do it either Feb/Mar or Oct/Nov depending on when I can arrange it. The land travel can be squeezed in around the rest. It'll be another busy year.
After yet another marvellous Indonesian meal ashore, we were piled onto a couple of local boats and taken a few miles up wind to a tiny island where there's a small fishing village. The fifty or so people who live there are Bajo people originating from Bau Bau in South Suwalesi, where we visited a couple of months ago. The island has no gardens, no coconut trees, just twenty or so wooden huts built on stilts. It's a very basic lifestyle, surviving on fishing.
Back on Ketawi Island, there was a turtle release. A government organisation has been breeding turtles and had brought a hundred baby turtles across to Ketawi to be released. They allowed people to handle the baby turtles and place them on the beach. It was chaos, some of the cruisers were complaining about the turtles being contaminated by the handling, meanwhile other cruisers, kids and locals were grabbing turtles and persuading them to crawl towards the sea or just placing them in the sea. All of the turtles swam away, but whether they survive is another matter.
Before dinner, Glenys and I walked around Ketawi Island. On the eastern side, we came across hundreds of Frigatebirds, gliding in the thermals waiting for sunset, so that they can come down and roost in the trees - a magical sight.
23 October 2015 Ketawi Island, Bangka
We spent the day doing some chores and getting ready to leave tomorrow. Our clearance papers and passports came back from the mainland, so we can now head for Singapore in morning. The locals here did a great job with the assistance of Eva from Sail Indonesia. Best of all, it didn't cost anything - our friends on "Full Circle" paid out over $250 in fees and marina charges when they cleared out at Nongsa Point Marina.
We had a final lunch ashore and formally said thank you and goodbye to the wonderful staff on the island. It's been a great four days and the food was fantastic especially because it was all cooked in a tent. The island is lovely and, even better, there is no mosque, so we have been Adhan-free for five nights.
24 October 2015 Ketawi Island to Kentar, Lingga (Day 1)
Most of the fleet left before six o'clock, so there was a long procession of yachts heading up the coast. There was no wind for the first couple of hours as we wove our way between reefs and small islands. Eventually, the wind picked enough for us to fly the spinnaker, but that only lasted for a couple of hours and we were back to motoring for the next ten hours.
It's 280 miles to get from Ketawi Island to Singapore and now that we're cleared out, we should do it in one passage. However, the second half of the route consists of a myriad of small islands and shallow channels, which are probably littered with fishing boats, fish attraction devices and nets, so we are wary of sailing through there at night. The plan is to sail to the Lingga island group overnight and then do a series of day hops through the rest of Indonesia to Singapore.
After dark, we cleared the top of Bangka Tengah island and, thankfully, the wind came back at 8-12 knots, so we had a lovely sail overnight in calm seas.
By four o'clock, we could see flashes of sheet lightning in the overcast skies, but the radar didn't show any squalls. We're approaching the equator and are now getting the effects of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), so we can start expecting squalls and thunderstorms, which we're not looking forward to.
25 October 2015 Ketawi Island to Kentar, Lingga (Day 2)
By sunrise, the wind had started to drop and, with 45 miles still to go to Kentar Island, we reluctantly had to start the engine. It was a boring day, with no wind and we were cooking in the heat and humidity. Also there’s a lot of smoke in the atmosphere here, so visibility was down to 1 mile. The only excitement was that “Sea Monkey’s” engine packed up, so “Conrad” had to tow them.
Just after lunch, we crossed the equator into the Northern Hemisphere. Some people have an equator party with loads of fun and games, but we couldn't be bothered - the heat made us very lethargic. We had a very small ceremony giving a gift to Poseidon. It’s pretty slim pickings on board now, with only 1/3 bottle of rum and only one packet of biscuits, so we had a tot of rum and a Ginger Nut and gave the same to Poseidon.
We arrived in Kentar anchorage (00°03.20N 104°45.61E) just after three o'clock and dropped the anchor in 9 metres. It’s a huge bay with shallow water sticking out ¼ mile from the shore, so it’s not a very interesting anchorage. The poor visibility makes it worse, so we feel like we’re anchored in the middle of nowhere.
By sunset, there were six boats in the anchorage, including “Sea Monkey” and “Conrad” who arrived safely. We were all invited by Jon & Sue onto “Ocelot” to have an Equator party - no dressing up or other antics, everyone is in "transit" mode, heading for Singapore or Malaysia.
26 October 2015 Kentar to Mesanak, Lingga
We had a leisurely start to the day and didn’t pull up our anchor until ten o’clock. There was no wind, so the 25 mile trip was again very boring - just motoring in flat calm seas. The humidity is up above 80% and the temperature is well above 30°C, so it was a hot and sultry day. The visibility today was about two miles - a bit better than yesterday, but we soon lost sight of land and it felt like we were motoring in our own little bubble with only sea and smog to look at.
We anchored in splendid isolation off the coast of Mesanak (00°26.00N 104°31.33E). Again there are shallows reaching out ¼ mile from the shore, so we feel like we’re out to sea. There’s a small village ashore and we’ve had a few fishermen chugging past with their single cylinder engines. Interestingly, the local boats here are not painted in the garish colours that we’ve seen in other parts of Indonesia.
27 October 2015 Mesanak to Pulau Melor
There wasn’t much to hold us in Mesanak, so we set off early to get 30 miles closer to Singapore. It was another hot and tedious day. We passed a fleet of small local boats fishing with long surface nets. It would appear that the mesh size of the nets is not regulated because we passed thousands of fish floating on the surface with bloated stomachs obviously cast off by the fishermen because they were too small - a terrible waste.
We anchored in 5 metres of water next to Pulau Melor (00°44.69N 104°11.04E). It’s not a bad anchorage being protected from everywhere apart from the north-west. There’s a small fishing village on the island.
28 October 2015 Pulau Melor to Kepalajerih
We were woken in the middle of the night by huge thunderstorm passing very close to us. Along with the heavy rain, there was violent lightning, so we leapt out of bed to stow our portable electronic devices in our Faraday Cage (our oven). The wind picked up to 30-40 knots, so we were then running around on deck rescuing our awning, which is 15 square metres and was attempting to flail itself to pieces in the strong winds. There wasn’t much damage and at least we had a nice refreshing shower.
After an early breakfast, we headed out of the anchorage and joined a small flotilla of six boats from the rally all going towards Kepalajerih. The weather was much more pleasant today because the thunderstorm has cleared the air, dropping the humidity down to a mere 76% with a temperature below 30°C.
We anchored in 6 metres of water in the northern point of Kepalajerih (01°02.39N 103°45.71E). The anchorage is large, but unassuming and (again) we have to anchor a long way out. It’s just another convenient stop before crossing the very heavy shipping lanes to Singapore.
We’ve run out of most supplies now - no soft drinks, no liquor, no wine and we drank our last 4 cans of beer tonight (Glenys showed her love for me by giving me one of her beers….) The food situation is getting desperate - no breakfast cereal, no eggs, no mayonnaise, no biscuits, no meat, etc., etc. We need to go shopping.
Tomorrow we sail to Singapore and we’re right on the edge of the very busy shipping lanes, so I spent some time watching the traffic on our AIS and working out where we’re going to cross. At one point, our AIS was registering over 1,200 ships within 20 miles of our anchorage - will I sleep tonight?
29 October 2015 Kepalajerih to Singapore
We left the anchorage at eight o’clock and motored for a couple of hours along the edge of the shipping lanes, focused intently on the huge ships zooming along at speeds up to 15 knots. After motoring for five miles, the depth suddenly plummeted from 15 metres to 3 metres as we went close to a 1.5m shallow spot. It gave us a big scare because neither of us had noticed this small area on our charts. Further investigation showed that the depth contour is a dotted line meaning that the shoal is in an “unreliable position” and so our chart plotter doesn’t colour it in blue - bizarre.
For our crossing point, I’d picked a place to the south of the Sisters Islands, where the shipping lanes are only 1.25 miles wide. I worked out that if we crossed at our maximum speed of 7 knots then it would take us 11 minutes to get across. Most of the ships seemed to be traveling at 13.5 knots, so we had to keep an eye on ships that were less than 2.5 miles away.
I spotted a good gap in the traffic, but then discovered that there was a damn tug in the way, which didn’t show up on our AIS. I had to speed up to get in front of the tug, then slow down for a huge Panamax container ship, then speed up for a freighter that suddenly joined the shipping lanes, which I hadn’t been tracking. With fraught nerves, we made it safely into the Quarantine anchorage at the Sister Islands and called up Immigration.
There’s a strangely efficient clearance procedure in Singapore with an Immigration boat coming out to check passports. We drifted about in the quarantine area with the engine idling, while a small grey boat manoeuvred close to us. An immigration officer held out a fish-landing net into which I placed our passports and clearance papers from Indonesia. Ten minutes later, we had our documents back, stamped and were cleared by Immigration - slick.
It only took us a further ten minutes to motor into the One 15 Marina, which is very posh. It’s part of Sentosa Island, which is a huge holiday destination for tourists, similar to Florida’s Disney World, with hotels and attractions.
After we’d checked into the marina, we caught the marina’s courtesy bus to a big shopping mall called Vivocity and from there caught a bus to the Port Authority’s One-Stop centre, where we completed our clearance through customs and port captain. It was an effortless process and we were only charged $30 Singapore Dollars (£15) for port fees.
We caught the bus back to the Vivo City shopping mall, which is a huge labyrinth of corridors and levels with hundreds of very glitzy shops. It’s a cultural shock after the run-down conditions of Indonesia and we wandered around with our mouths agape because we’d not seen anything like this since we left New Zealand. Eventually we bought a few supplies in the Giant supermarket and retired back to the boat to have spit-roasted chicken, salad and a baguette for dinner with a bottle of wine.
Our arrival in Singapore is the end of a major leg in our round-the-world voyage. Since we left New Zealand six months ago, we’ve done 6,300 nautical miles and we’re a little travel weary. Hopefully, we can slow down for a year and explore Malaysia and Thailand at a more leisurely pace.
30 October 2015 Singapore
It was absolutely boiling last night - humid, hot and airless. We didn’t sleep well at all and we’re not looking forward to the next four nights stuck in a marina.
After breakfast, we caught the courtesy bus and then used the very efficient MRT underground system to go into Singapore city to do some shopping.
Over the next year, we’re going to be spending quite a lot of time in marinas and our miserable night has reinforced that we need to get an air-conditioning unit. We bought a small 5,000 BTU window air conditioner when we were in the USA, which was very compact and stowed away in our forepeak locker, but I sold it in Ecuador because it ran on 110V supply and only worked in North and South America.
Window-type air-conditioners are very cheap in the USA and can be bought in any hardware store for just over $100US. However, they are very rare in Singapore because they’re old fashioned and inefficient. I discovered that a store chain called Courts sells a 6,000 BTU model, so we tramped around a couple of stores to have a look at one. Neither had them in store and at the second store we discovered that there’s none in the country and they won’t be able to deliver for at least a week, which is too late - bummer, we’ll have to re-think our strategy.
After seeing the quality of the pictures from “Adina’s” camera in Borneo, I lust after an SLR camera with a telephoto lens. I had a nice Canon SLR before we moved onto Alba, but sold it to a friend because I thought that it was too bulky. I’ve missed it for the past four years. Glenys was very patient as I tested a few cameras and lenses, but I can’t make my mind up what is best. I’m also not sure if I can justify spending £750 on another camera - I already have two - a simple rugged one (which I carry everywhere) and a Sony RX100mkII for my underwater photography.
Exhausted from running around and window shopping, we had lunch in a huge shopping mall called Bugis. The whole of the city of Singapore seems to be one big shopping mall - I can’t believe that there are enough people willing to spend enough money to sustain all the shops. There are smartly dressed people bustling around everywhere and the expensive restaurants in the malls are crowded at lunchtime. It’s all very decadent compared to the poor standard of living in Indonesian only 15 miles away.
We walked to Little India in the middle of the afternoon, which is an area of predominantly Indian people. It’s the Deevali festival in a couple of weeks’ time and the Indian community are getting very excited, with the streets displaying colourful banners strung between buildings. Compared to the decadent shopping malls, there’s a completely different feel in Little India, with ladies dressed in saris bustling past the market stalls where men weave flowers into garlands for Hindu offerings.
One of the top 10 things to do in this area is to visit the Mustafa Centre. This store was founded by an Indian businessman in 1971, where he mainly sold ready-made clothing. The Mustafa Centre now extends five or six blocks with six floors, sells over 300,000 items and is open 24 hours a day. It is a shopaholic’s dream, but filled me with dread.
Glenys and I split up for an hour, planning to meet at four o’clock to re-group. Four o’clock came and went, and after 30 minutes of waiting, I decided that Glenys must have thought that we’d agreed five o’clock. She turned up at quarter to five and had simply been lost, trying to find her way back through the rabbit warren of buildings and floors - she eventually had to leave the store at another building and then walk along the streets to find the correct building where I was waiting.
I’d had enough of shopping by this time, so we headed back to the marina and had a meal at one of the many restaurants in area. The marina is surrounded by very expensive apartments and is one of the most expensive places to live in Singapore. We ended up in a sports bar having a burger and chips and paying £7.50 for a pint of lager - the most expensive that we’ve ever paid. We’ll not be eating out the marina again.
31 October 2015 Singapore
It was another sultry, sweaty night. Yesterday, our friends Jon and Heather on “Evergreen” bought a portable air-conditioning unit, so I went to have a look. It’s a very large unit on castors and the hot air comes out of a five inch diameter hose at the back, so it needs to be plumbed into a vent or out of a hatch, but it only cost £250 and seems to work well. Two hours later, we’d been to Vivo City, caught a taxi back and our new air conditioning unit was sitting in our saloon.
The instructions state that after being transported, the air conditioner should stand for a couple of hours before running, so we went back to Vivo City for lunch. Glenys wanted a haircut and to do some shopping without me slowing her down. I went for a stroll about the various electronics and camera shops, but I was bored after an hour and went back to the boat.
I plumbed in the air conditioner. It’s a big unit - 700mm tall, 260mm wide and 700mm deep when you add in the large hose at the back which pumps out hot air. The hose was only 1.5 metres long, so my choices of where to put it were limited and I finally perched it on the work surface at the side of the galley. This enabled me to feed the outlet hose into a modified washboard with the hot air pumping out into the cockpit. It dominates the saloon, but within a couple of hours, the temperature was down from 38°C at 85% humidity to 27°C at 65% humidity - luxury!
Glenys arrived back at the boat in the late afternoon, but unfortunately got caught in one of the afternoon thunderstorms, so she looked like a drowned rat with her new £50 haircut ruined. After she’d dried off, we went to “Evergreen” for a few drinks, where we met Richard and Jan from “Slipaway”.