Well, we’re certainly not complaining about the weather here. We’re experiencing a lovely dry heath, with a refreshing afternoon breeze and relatively cool nights. Long may it last!
Well, we’re certainly not complaining about the weather here. We’re experiencing a lovely dry heath, with a refreshing afternoon breeze and relatively cool nights. Long may it last!
We’re back in civilisation, there’s no doubt about that! We’ve been in Phuket for a few weeks now and it’s like being back in the Med during the height of summer. It is super-busy, tourists everywhere, hour-long traffic jams, packed beaches, restaurants and shops galore, busy anchorages and there is no space in any of the marinas. That last one doesn’t bother us so much, we prefer to be at anchor anyway. But, sometimes, it is useful to nip into a marina for one or two nights in order to organise and arrange some work. And, after having been in “the wild” for two years, we do need quite a few things done to the boat! In fact, the list is quite long: rigging inspection and potential replacement, cushions re-upholstery, canvas work, polishing, anti-fouling, etc. etc.
After pulling some strings and using a few connections, we managed to book two nights in the Boat Lagoon Marina and organised several companies to come and discuss the work we need doing, measure up and prepare a quote. We’ll see what comes back and then decide and plan the work. We might nip out to the islands for a bit first.
Phuket also has very good hospitals and dentists, so it’s not just the boat that’s getting a check-up! Dental and skin checks, eye tests, … We’ve been to one of the hospitals in town and were extremely impressed with the quality of service at a very affordable price. No waiting list or queue there!
Welcome to Thailand! Land of the free. It felt like we finally entered paradise again. We had a few lovely stops on the way to Phuket. It’s roughly 120 NM from Langkawi to Phuket, so, we split the journey up in three very comfortable day-hops.
Our first anchorage was Ko Bulon Le, a small remote island with a lovely beach, a wooden shack-type beach bar and a couple of backpacker-type lodgings. We were welcomed by bar-owner James Bond, or at least that what he told us his name was. But when Seathan introduced himself as Sean Connery, he had no idea who that was. 😀
Anyway, first Singha was free. Welcome to Thailand. Yay! We like it here already.
That evening we were in for another treat. We heard there would be a super-moon and were watching it in awe as it rose in the early evening. Little did we know that there was going to be an eclipse too! What a sight. How awesome to see this from our anchorage.
The next day we continued to Ko Muk, where we parked in a stunning bay underneath towering cliffs. Ko Muk has a famous hong to explore, accessible only through a cave and a tunnel at low tide. During the daytime, hundreds of tourists were dropped off to go into the hong but after 4pm everyone was gone and we could venture in on the dinghy.
One more stop before Phuket: Ko Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee). Probably the most famous island in Thailand. Especially after they filmed “The Beach” with Leonardo Di Caprio there. It consists of two main islands: Ko Phi Phi Le and Ko Phi Phi Don. Ko Phi Phi Lee is where THE famous beach is located, in Maya bay. We went in but turned around quickly. It was busier than the Singapore Straits. The big difference was that nobody here seemed to know their Col Regs, who cares at 35 knots. And I don’t think there was room for one more person on that beach anyway.
So instead we stopped in Ko Phi Phi Don. A narrow sandbar separates the two main bays and we anchored on the quieter side. I was there 20 years ago or so and was shocked to see the difference. Of course there has been the tsunami in 2004 that swept everything away but the amount of building and infrastructure that is now set up on this tiny sandbar is incredible. We didn’t stay long and fled back to the boat to have dinner onboard.
Next stop: Phuket and catching up with my parents who are on holiday here and I haven’t seen for two years. Bliss!
It’s been a long slog getting out of Indonesia, and, getting up the Strait of Malacca has been similarly slow. But, as always in sailing, hard times are compensated with good ones and arriving in Langkawi has been very rewarding!
After Port Dickson, near Malacca, it took four more day-sails before we reached Langkawi. In Port Klang, we sailed into the Royal Selangor Yacht Club, where we received a very warm welcome, free t-shirts and a few beers! The last two nights we found relatively calm and protected anchorages en route.
Once we reached Langkawi, we headed into Kuah to catch up with an old friend. We also met another kid-boat with two boys similar ages. It’s incredible how fast boat-kids connect, it literally took less than a minute and the four boys were sharing Star Wars stories, comparing Lego kits and non-stop chatting. They had obviously been deprived…
We are sailing through the famous Malacca Strait as I write. Even though the wind is mostly on the nose, it’s a good time of the year to go through as the weather is calm, with less chance of violent thunderstorms and Sumatra winds. We’ve had the sails up a few times, but mostly we will be motoring all the way.
It’s not the thunderstorms, nor the pirates (they’ve been mostly scared away since the government took action a few years ago), nor the busy traffic of huge tankers that worries us. It’s the fishermen. And not the fishermen themselves, but the kilometres-long unmarked and unlit nets they put out. It makes sailing at night nigh on impossible.
We’ve made a stop in Pulau Pisang (aka Banana Island) and Pulau Bessar. The latter is part of the Water Islands, named so because of the fresh water wells. In the olden days, ships used to stop here to re-victual. Today it’s a place of pilgrimage for muslims who come and visit the ancient graves of Sultans and other historical leaders that were buried here. There’s a resort and golf course too.
Our next stop was Port Dickson, where we took a few days rest and the opportunity to visit the ancient town of Malacca (also know as Melaka).
One day really wasn’t enough to do this fascinating historical place justice. The long colonial history (Portuguese, then Dutch, then British) is visible all through town and the historic centre has been classified a UNESCO world heritage site. But, most visible is the rich Chinese heritage which started long before the first Europeans arrived, when the daughter of the Chinese Emperor married the first Sultan and brought 500 ‘attendants’ with her, who all married and mixed with the local Malay. The famous mariner, explorer and diplomat Cheng Ho (1371-1438) stopped in Malacca five times during his seven legendary voyages. He was instrumental in getting Malacca on the map as a major trading hub and port. At one point, this port could accommodate 2000 ships. Right now there’s isn’t even anywhere to anchor Rehua! It’s all been silted up.
The boat stayed in Malaysia but we made a day-trip into Singapore. It was remarkably easy to hop on a bus and for the price of roughly 1 pound you were dropped off in the middle of Singapore. Of course, the bus had to stop off at Immigration to sign everyone out of Malaysia and then another stop to check into Singapore. The system was pretty smooth. An ex-colleague and friend of mine picked us up from the bus station and was kind enough to host us for the day. After a favourite pizza lunch we headed to the “Future World” exhibition at the art and science centre, then for a walk by the waterfront and finally some satays for dinner. Lovely day!
Breakfast in Indonesia, lunch in Singapore and dinner in Malaysia. Must be a personal record for Rehua? Our 3-day sail from Belitung was (thankfully) pretty uneventful in terms of squalls. We saw a few very threatening ones but didn’t get hit as badly as we did in our last two passages. And we crossed the equator (again); Seathan was the only one awake at the time and I think he just had a quiet one-to-one with King Neptune.
The last day kept us very busy. We had stopped at night, just before entering the straits of Singapore, to get a few hours sleep on the hook. We happened to be right in front of a petroleum plant which as it happened put on the biggest all nighter “Roman Candle” the boys had ever seen. It was dark when we arrived and we carefully navigated our way in, using satellite images. As soon as we dropped the hook, a security boat came over to see what we were up to, no English, no Indonesian, roll forward thirty minutes queue the same boat with an orange suited petroleum worker who had excellent English:
“Why you stopping here?”
“Mate…. Ive been steering for three days and I’m knackered, we’ll be gone by 5 in the morning.”
Okay, why stop here? To answer that would have involved a multi faceted answer; because you have ten meters of water with sand and mud, because your out of the swell, because its 360 degrees shelter, but Seathan opted for “You have a beautiful beach……” He was a happy man….if only a little perplexed, there is no beach or sand for thirty miles!
Sailing across the Singapore Straits is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the busiest ports in the world. This is what the chart looked like at one point:
And on the chart plotter, things looked pretty busy too: Got to love the vectors on AIS at this point. Anybody else remember the game “Asteroids”
Somehow we had to get across all that lot. Seathan didn’t seem very phased by it, “no worse than than Sydney Harbour on a quiet afternoon,” he said. I, on the other hand, was very happy to give up my watch and stick to galley duties for the day 😉
The boys loved checking out all those tankers from so close by. We certainly didn’t get bored. On top of that, we got treated to a full-on flight show (one F18 and two F16s). They kept doing crazy loops and tricks and did a few fly-overs over Rehua. Very nice welcome to Singapore.
We passed Singapore and kept going to Malaysia, just across the other side of the straits, we went under a bridge and then into a marina. It’s the first time since Auckland, 2 years ago, that we’ve been in a marina and it feels strange, being tied onto the dock.
Clearing into Malaysia was SUPER easy. A complete contrast with Indonesia. It took a total of 10 minutes only (and I’m not exaggerating), no complicated forms, just some fingerprints and, bam!, our passports were stamped and we’re good to stay for 90 days. Customs didn’t even visit the boat, neither did Quarantine.
The marina itself is brand new, much cheaper than anywhere in Singapore, the staff are friendly, the showers are clean, there are laundry machines, … The harbour is surrounded by many restaurants, including a Belgian one with mussels and fries, a great selection of beers and other homely treats. And Legoland is just a few kilometres away. Looks like we’re getting our Christmas treats after all!
Some photos from the passage:
We are well over half way now “motor sailing” into 2knts of Nth-Sth current at just over 6 knts, position 00 04.129N:104 56.681E, we recrossed the Equator at around 0700hrs this morning no fancy ceremonies, everyone is still asleep. We will cut up through the west coast of Batam and join the TSS East and below Singapore early tomorrow morning, no pictures today as this is via SSB.
Boys are suffering sleep deprivation, not through wild seas or “Mal de Mer” but in raw anticipation of a belated Xmas day out at Legoland, wish I was still 12 as well!
To our lost friends down south, its been an easy run, even the fishing nets are sailor friendly, the current has never been over two knots, looking forward to catching up. So Malaysia early doors tomorrow for some down time off the boat. Rehua standing by on 16……
After six months the time has come to clear out of Indonesia… It wasn’t nearly long enough to discover this vast archipelago of diverse islands. Maybe we will return one day…
We’re in Belitung, an island roughly halfway between Jakarta and Singapore, and we were able to complete exit clearance here. Indonesians love paperwork and we were chuffed to complete the entire process in just one day. Yes, apparently it can take several days, if you’re unlucky.
We started the process at 8am with Immigration. Taxi to the other side of town, friendly welcome, photocopies had to be taken, forms filled in and stamps were promptly received, an hour later. Next stop: Customs, located near the port authorities on the other side of town. They also needed photocopies, of all sort of documents, but when we said we didn’t bring copies, they were happy to accept scanned pictures via email. Then they announced they had to come and inspect the boat. We were surprised.
“Really? We are clearing out, not in.”
“Yes, yes,” they said, “we still need to check the boat.”
So while the kids and I waited in the office, Seathan went back to the boat accompanied by the customs officers. Apparently they were keen to check whether we had AIS and whether the engines were working. Whilst that was being established, the kids and I played a monopoly card game (or three) and were offered delicious chocolate cake by the staff.
Late morning, and, step two of the process completed, we headed to the Harbour Master, who, apparently, would be issuing our ‘zarpe’ or exit document which we need to enter the next country. However, they informed us they couldn’t do anything until we had gone to Quarantine.
So off to the next office: Quarantine, based around the corner. This was the point where Seathan and I had to take a deep breath and remember to keep smiling. It’s the first time ever we had to go to Quarantine when leaving the country, but, apparently, yes, in Indonesia that is a requirement. More forms. More stamps. We asked the three women in the office to explain to us the purpose of Quarantine?
“To communicate with the other departments,” was the answer.
Ok, that makes it clear, then?!?!? Never mind, we got the stamps and headed back to the Harbour Master before they went on their long lunch break.
We got there just in time. But, there was a problem. We didn’t have an inward clearance document from the Harbour Master in Biak, where we checked in. When we arrived in the country the authorities told us there was no need to see the Harbour Master, so we didn’t.
“Not to worry,” said the big chief. “We will coordinate with Customs and prepare your clearing out document for this afternoon. Just remember for next time. Go and have some lunch and come back at 3pm.”
So that’s it, all done, in one day! Result. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to the barber shop and a final diesel run. Next stop: Malaysia!
Hard to believe it, but, yes, we could have walked here faster. Current, wind and tides have not been working much in our favour. We’ve arrived in Belitung, a small island roughly halfway between Jakarta and Singapore. Only 300 miles to go until Singapore. It’s been a hard slog, getting here from Karimunjawa. We waited and waited until a favourable weather window finally arrived and we set off together with our buddy boat Impetuous Too. Just enough of an angle to sail. But, even with the full sails up and both engines running, we struggled to make any decent speed. Imagine cycling uphill with the brakes on, and you’ll get the idea. When you are doing 5 or 6 knots over the water (and at some points even 7 or 8) but you have 2 to 3 knots current against you … well that’s just simply frustrating. So keep that thought and then keep doing that for 3 days and bring in a few violent midnight squalls (which means you have to take all the sails down and get soaking wet) … not that much fun. And, how could I forget, there are also still the logs, FADs and floating rubbish bags to watch out for (although of course you don’t see these at night!). It’s also incredibly shallow all across the Java and Sumatra Sea, even in the middle of the ocean, far away from any land, the average depth is just 50 metres. It made for a very short, choppy and uncomfortable sea; a bit like being inside washing machine for a few days.
We ‘celebrated’ Christmas in the middle of the ocean, somewhere between Karimunjawa and Belitung. I couldn’t face the galley in all that chop, so noodles, pasta, bread, cereal were the menu of the day. However, Santa did manage to find our boat and dropped off a few presents. Nothing like some new Lego to keep the boys entertained while on passage, so that was a big hit. A proper Christmas dinner was had when we reached Belitung. No turkey; chicken did us just fine though.
It would simply be impossible to get here without engines, I think we would have been moving backwards. Unfortunately, our friends’ engine gave up as they approached Belitung. Tough sailors that they are, they tacked their way into the anchorage, adding a few hours to those last couple of miles. Lots of problem-solving and tinkering the next day and still no luck. It was another 50 miles or so to Tanjung Pandan, the main town, against current and wind. We decided to tug was the only option, so Rehua threw a line and off we went. Luckily, the two days sailing (read: motoring) up the coast were calm(ish). The final approach into town was not very evident. Charts were inaccurate (naturally) and the whole area leading into the harbour is silted up and very, very shallow. Fishermen kept signalling to us but it was impossible to tell whether they meant us to go in that way or stay away. Safety first, we dropped the hook outside and dinghied in to check the depth. All clear and we headed in, pulling our friends along. We all breathed a deep sigh of relief when both anchors were dropped inside Tanjung Pandam’s protected harbour. Duncan already found a great engine shop and they are on the case ordering new parts.
A quick venture into town and we were pleasantly surprised. It’s well developed, the locals are very friendly and welcoming, and it seems to be a thriving town. There’s quite a bit of tourism here, but of the local variety. Only Indonesians, Jakarta jet-setters, I suspect, and no other westerners around. Apparently, the island is not entirely muslim and we’ve seen a bit of everything. From fully covered up with jihabs to miniskirts and hair extensions. Hopefully that means there’s stuff to be found in the supermarket (think cheese, meat, beer, wine; all the things we’ve haven’t been able to buy for a while). We’ll find out in the next few days. Today we’re taking it easy. After school, we’ll head into town for lunch, perhaps in one of the hotels with a pool, so the kids can jump in and cool off. Last night, we found a great number of local food stalls, with delicious (and cheap!) Indonesian food, accompanied by live music. Very nice atmosphere.
We’ll spend at least a few days here to to provision and fuel up and then we need to do the dreaded clearing out of Indonesia. I say ‘dreaded” because our one biggest complaint about Indonesia has to be the paperwork and bureaucracy we’ve encountered at every visa extension. So hopefully clearing out with customs, immigration and the port authority will go smoothly here, fingers crossed!
In the meantime, we wish you all a happy, healthy and adventurous 2018!
From the Rehua crew xx