A Well Kept Secret…

Maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone and keep it a secret. The Anambas are just too good to be true. One of the best cruising grounds we’ve come across; Indonesia has totally exceeded our expectations, yet again. It would be such a shame if these islands got inundated with tourists. Right now, they are difficult to reach and there’s hardly any infrastructure. The people are friendly, the islands remote and unspoilt and there are so many good anchorages to choose from, all within close ‘day-hop distance’ of each other. The snorkelling and diving is superb and we’ve also had beautiful dry and breezy weather. It truly doesn’t get much better than this.

one of the many perfect desert islands we anchored next to

turquoise water, sandy beaches, life is perfect

Moonrock bay, one of our favourite anchorages

this rock is called ‘Moonrock” because it reflects the moonlight at night

hike to the top of the rock

view over the bay with Rehua on the left

Moonrock bay

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beautiful diving and snorkeling, plenty of healthy corals

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The weather’s been so perfect but, in fact, we’ve been wishing for rain since our water-maker broke down a few weeks ago. A couple of worn out check valve o-rings which, apparently, are very specialist replacement parts and, despite Seathan’s best efforts in re-constructing them from other materials, impossible to replace. So we’ve become four salty sea dogs… Luckily, we were able to fill up with water at a small resort near Tarempa where we anchored stern-to and filled up with drinkable rainwater (which we filtered before putting it into our tanks).

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anchored and tied stern-to and filling up with water 

The water-maker isn’t the only problem, unfortunately. We noticed the voltage of our house batteries dropping unusually low during the night and when Seathan checked the batteries he realised one cell was completely ‘dead’. He had to remove two batteries and we now operate at half the capacity. It means we can’t last as long as usual on stored battery power and need to run the generator or the engines more frequently, especially at night when the solar panels aren’t producing energy. We’ve had our house batteries for nearly four years, so they’ve had a good run and we were expecting having to replace them sometime soon. So not the end of the world, but just a little inconvenience until we get them replaced.

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trying out the local mode of transport

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he’s a natural

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this local fisherman was keen to trade some fish for an old dive mask

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fish for dinner

We didn’t want to let these inconveniences distract us from enjoying these beautiful surroundings. To make life even better, we bumped into a couple of kid boats! We spent a few days with S/V Marrant, a French family with two small kids onboard and had a few lovely evenings on the beach together.

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swimming off the back of boat with our friends from S/V Marrant

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surfing behind the dinghy

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dinner on the beach

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Laura’s gutting the fish

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cooking in progress

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nothing better than a fire at night

Then our friend Taffy turned up on S/V Intrigue with a British family onboard and two girls (11 and 12). We spent the next week with Intrigue and had a ball, discovering new anchorages, snorkelling spots, fires on the beach, sundowners onboard and of course lots of games for the kids.

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Taffy on the bow of S/V Intrigue

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Mandariau bay

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beautiful snorkeling and diving

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Together, we also stopped of at Nongkat Island where we met Dhany, who is from Jakarta and was educated in Australia, and, who recently set up a stunning small resort just north of Tarempa. We brought our food ashore and Dhany cooked it all for us while we enjoyed a few beers in his very smart beach bar overlooking a breathtakingly beautiful turquoise lagoon. The next morning, Dhany took the kids on his weekly turtle rescue mission. Turtles get caught in the fishing nets and the kids got to help release them. Special memories.

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S/V Intrigue

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onboard S/V Intrigue with the owner, guests and crew

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Dhany’s beach bar on Nongkat island

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such a charmer

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view from the bar

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barman for the night

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dinner is served

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kids having fun

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beers with the boys

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turtle rescue trip

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We did a few more gorgeous anchorages including the remote and uninhabited Pendjalin Islands with more amazing snorkeling , rock climbing and some fun afternoons and evenings on the beach.

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‘sugarcube island’

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beautiful rocky islands

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‘coconut boules’ on the beach

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aka coconut petanque

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fun afternoon

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who’s winning?

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expert rock climber

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fire is started

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the bar is set up

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evening ambiance

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kids’ fire

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great snorkeling spot with Rehua and Intrigue anchored in the background

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Eventually we had to nip back into Tarempa, the main town, in search of fresh produce and also a doctor as Aeneas had developed a nasty rash the night before, which we suspected was a reaction to the antibiotics he had been taken to cure an ear infection and some coral cuts on his leg. The local doctor confirmed our diagnosis but there was not much he could do apart from giving us paracetamol and antihistamines. The facilities were so basic that he didn’t even have any tools to check his ears with. They wouldn’t take any payment for the medication and we had to insist we wanted to make a small donation to the hospital. Aeneas responded well to the antihistamines and fully recovered a couple of days later. Phew.

And then it was time to clear out. Our month in paradise was up. We followed the instructions and went to Immigration first, where two very friendly officials were sitting in a small office watching loud music videos. A few stamps and five minutes later we walked across the road to Customs. This took a little bit longer as they had to go online to update our details (there’s hardly any internet in the Anambas, only in Tarempa there is a smidge and it is very slow). Third stop: Quarantaine. Bit strange to have to go and see Quarantine on the way out of a country but never mind. Somehow, we got shown into the wrong building and ended up in the health department where we were given a complete health check-up. An hour and a half later (and many forms and questionnaires) we walked out with four very official looking documents declaring us fit and healthy. Final stop: the Harbour Master. At this stage, the kids were getting tired and hungry and we were keen to get back to the boat.

“Where is your document from Quarantaine?” the Harbour Master asked.

When I pointed him to the four very official looking pieces of paper he laughed and said: “No, no, that’s from a different Health Department. You went to the wrong building. We need a different piece of paper.”

He noticed that we were close to losing patience and immediately suggested: “No problem, I will take you on my motorbike and we will get the right document. Don’t worry, it will only take five minutes.”

Huge sigh of relief. The kids and I waited in the office and as they watched two of the staff’s children play GTA on the office computers, I chatted to the shipping agent, who also worked in the Harbour Master office and wanted to know where we were from and where we had been. Seathan returned shortly after and we got our final clearance documents and were good to go. Bye bye Tarempa. I have a feeling we may be back.

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Durian anyone?

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looking for the Immigration office

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at the Health Department, this is how they measured his height

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full health check-up

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at the Harbour Master’s office

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kids all dressed up for a religious festival

A few final stops on the way out of the Anambas. One more afternoon on the beach, one more snorkeling trip and one more gorgeous sunrise. Can’t wait to come back.

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anchorage near Pulau Ayam, Jemaja

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human pyramid

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sundowners on the beach

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another gorgeous sunset

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and a beautiful sunrise

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bye bye Anambas, we’ll be back!

Paradise Found!

I’ll be honest. Six months ago, I had never heard of the Anambas Islands. This remote and isolated island group, located roughly halfway between peninsular Malaysia and Borneo in the South China Sea, is most definitely off the beaten track. It’s only very recently being opened up for tourism. Yachts didn’t use to come here because the area was plagued with piracy. The Indonesian navy started patrolling the islands a couple of years ago and it’s now considered safe. Hotels are still few and far between; we noticed a few backpacker-type places in the main town and there is one luxury upscale resort that started running less than a year ago. So, perfect timing for us to discover these islands.

For the first time in a very long time we also had some friends visiting us from Belgium and we were so glad we made it through the Malacca strait, just in time for them to join us to the Anambas Islands.

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Off on a 24hr sail

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Lots to catch up on…

The crossing from Batam took 24 hours and was extremely pleasant downwind sailing. Such a difference from the hard slog that was the Malacca Strait! During the first part of the night, we were kept very busy keeping clear of all the traffic in the South China Sea. We had a few very friendly VHF conversations with some of the big container ships who politely notified us that they would cross our stern or, another one, wanted to pass us on our starboard side and please could we keep our course.

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Early morning visitor

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In need of a little rest…

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Land Ho!

We saw land early morning and arrived in our first anchorage just before lunch. We found a gorgeous spot to drop the anchor, next to a desert island and spent the afternoon swimming, snorkeling, walking along the beach and gathering wood for a campfire. Doesn’t get much better than that!

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Approaching our first stop in the Anambas

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Turquoise water, yay!

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Let’s dig

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Desert beach

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Happy campers

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They never get tired of this one

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Chat chat chat

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building a campfire

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obligatory family shot with Rehua

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firemaster

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beautiful evening

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A few more stunning anchorages followed. More turquoise water, great snorkeling and a dinghy trip up the river in between the mangroves. We had a few days of cloudy weather and some rain, but that didn’t spoil the fun. Yes, yes, yes; this is exactly what we were looking for and we found it. It’s good to be back in Indonesia!

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another gorgeous anchorage

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anchor down and let’s jump in

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desert island

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good snorkelling 

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staghorn corals

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visibility wasn’t the best but corals were nice

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interesting plants

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dinghy trip up the river in between the mangroves

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Just chillin’

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Tyrii gives Nadine a SUP lesson

After a week of remote locations we headed into Terampa, the main town, to drop our guests off who were catching a ferry back. We had a wonderful week together, special memories we will never forget and were so happy to share.

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Terampa, the main town in the Anambas

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Colourful houses

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View from the Chinese temple

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Exploring town

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Happy local boys

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At the fish market

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great variety

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Lots of market stalls with fresh produce

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Stocking up on some fresh stuff

Now, where are all those other kid boats and let’s go explore some more remote anchorages. There are too many to choose from and we only have a few weeks left!

The Malacca Strait (again)

Our second transit through the Malacca Strait and, again, we were too late in the season. We took much longer than planned to antifoul the boat and were further delayed waiting for engine parts (held up by customs in KL for 2 weeks). Anyway, we eventually managed to escape Rebak and headed to Kuah, Langkawi to clear out and provision before heading south. The SW Monsoon was well established and it promised to be a long hard slog. And so it was.

Day 1: Kuah, Langkawi to Penang (60NM)

We decided to try and avoid night sailing. There are too many floating fishing nets and logs and, frankly, if you can stop for the night and get some sleep, why not? It’s just more civilised. We left Kuah at the crack of dawn, had breakfast en route and motor-sailed to Penang, 70NM down the track. It was a relatively calm day and we had the sails up most of the way. We dropped anchor just outside Straits Quay Marina before dusk but decided to lift it again an hour later to move to the Junk Anchorage, a few miles further south. The first anchorage had become untenable due to an uncomfortable swell. A quick dinner and we all hit our beds early.

Day 2: Penang to Pangkor (70NM)

We had set the alarm for 5am and left the anchorage before sunrise. The few extra hours could mean we might get to Pangkor before dark. And we did. Just. We anchored in a bay on the northeastern side next to a fish farm and were happy to put our heads on our pillows.

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One of the two bridges we went under in Penang

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One of the reasons we don’t like to sail at night: floating logs

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Sunset at anchor

Day 3: Pangkor to Pangkor

Unfortunately some engine problems meant a late start. Seathan managed to fix the engine and we took off late morning. We motored along the coast of Pangkor and into the Malacca Strait. After half an hour of slamming into 20 knots of wind and making very little progress, Seathan decided to turn back. It was uncomfortable, we were burning a lot of diesel and we were hardly making any ground. After making a 180 turn, the ride was comfortable and fast. If only we were heading north. We promised ourselves we would make the transit during the correct season next time. We’ll see… We found somewhere to anchor just outside Pangkor marina, had a lovely roast pork dinner and a little rest.

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A mosque on Pangkor island

Day 4: Pangkor to Klang (90NM)

Luckily, the wind died down overnight and we left Pangkor before dawn at 5am. It was going to be our longest day yet to cover the 90NM to Port Klang. We got in just after dark and anchored somewhere up the river, in Port Klang. The area is very industrial and within close proximity to KL. Not the most picturesque anchorage, but it was fine for the night.

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Approaching Port Klang at dusk

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Early morning and it’s busy already in Port Klang

Day 5: Klang to Port Dickson (50NM)

We left early again and arrived in Port Dickson mid-afternoon. We stopped in a marina this time, to make it easier to do repairs and order new starter batteries for our engines. Unfortunately it was Sunday, so nothing was open and we had to wait another day to get hold of them. Two nights in the marina wasn’t so bad, especially as our friends on ‘Tsonoqua II’ were there and we had a lovely time catching up. The kids spent most of the time in the pool with their friends and I took the opportunity to top up on provisions and do some laundry. Seathan fixed the engines, filled up with diesel and replaced the shaft seals and we left at the crack of dawn on Tuesday.

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Rehua in Port Dickson marina

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Dinner with fire show in Port Dickson marina with our friends from ‘Tsonoqua II’

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Fixing the engine

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A spot of laundry with my little helper

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The kids enjoyed the pool in Port Dickson marina

 

Day 6: Port Dickson to Pulau Besar (40NM)

We could have covered more miles but getting all the way to Pulau Pisang would have been too much. Pulau Besar, aka the water islands, are a pretty anchorage and the islands were once frequented by many ships because of their natural water source. These days it’s a place of worship for Indian muslims who consider this ghost-town-like-island to be a very spiritual place. We didn’t see anyone and spent a quiet night at anchor.

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It’s always busy in the Strait

Day 7: Pulau Bessar to Pulau Pisang (70NM)

Another loooong day. Fortunately, the sailing angles were much better now as we were easting; we had 14 to 18 knots just forward of the beam and enjoyed a very comfortable sail, making good ground. We dropped anchor as the sun was setting and enjoyed a sundowner, feeling relieved that our transit was nearly complete. Just one leg left through the busy Singapore Strait.

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Anchor down as the sun is setting 

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moon rise over Pulau Pisang

 

Day 8: Pulau Pisang to Nongsapoint, Batam (55NM)

Our last day was, indeed, a busy one. There’s a lot of traffic around Singapore and we had to cross the transit lane. I didn’t see much of it as I was down below cleaning the boat, getting it ready for our friends who would come onboard in the evening. I popped my head up a few times to look at the massive ships and to see what was going on when we were chased down by the Singapore Coastguard (twice). The first time they ordered us to head east in the west going transit lane. Seriously? It meant we were illegally easting in the westbound traffic, but we couldn’t argue with the coastguard. They followed us for at least 30 minutes and then turned around. A few hours later, another Singaporean coastguard called us on the radio to ask all our details: Where did we come from? How many people on board? Where were we heading? They were friendly enough and wished us a safe onward journey before throwing some impressive doughnuts to the delight of the boys. We crossed the transit lane at the correct junction and headed for Batam, Indonesia.

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On the radio to the Singapore Coastguard

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They kept following us for at least half an hour

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Lots of traffic

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Our friends were waiting on the dock as we motored into Nongsapoint marina around 4pm. As soon as the lines were secured, I jumped ashore. I hadn’t seen my dear friend Nadine for 4 years and we stood and hugged and shed a few tears. It was so good to see them and I was so glad we made it just in time. Well, one day late actually, but that’s not bad at all.

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presents from Belgium

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Ready for the Anamabas!

For the first time we didn’t do the Indonesian formalities ourselves as the marina staff in Nongsapoint took care of it all. The whole process (immigration, customs, harbourmaster and quarantine) was taking care of in less than an hour and we didn’t even have to leave our boat. It would normally take us one to two days and a lot of running around, taxis and hassle. So for the price of USD 50, I would say that was totally worth it.

A final day of preparations: servicing the engines and the generator, a few more provisions and some laundry, and we were ready to leave in search of remote turquoise anchorages. We left Nongsapoint after breakfast on Saturday morning, ready for, what should hopefully be, a comfortable 24h downwind sail to the Anamabas Islands. Yay!