October 2015 - Indonesia to Singapore

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.

Downtown Karimunjawa

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. 

Buying petrol for the scooters

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.

A Bemo brings the dive tanks

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.

Karimunjawa Anchorage

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.

Diving a wreck

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.

Traditional Fishing Boats

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.