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:
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
I guess we’ve been lucky so far. We saw many huge logs (and entire trees) floating around in Indonesian waters. In daylight, you can see them and avoid them, at night, it’s a different story. And so it happened. Sailing across the Java Sea at 4am, just before dawn, while I was on watch. I heard a small thump, nothing louder than a wave smacking the hull, so I didn’t think anything of it until a second later, when the boatspeed dropped from 5 to 2 knots. I immediately put the engines in neutral and called Seathan, who was sleeping in the saloon. He was up in a flash, grabbed the torch and noticed a huge 10 metres long bamboo log that was wedged underneath the boat. It’s never appealing to go into the water whilst sailing, especially not in the dark, but it seemed there was no choice. But before getting in, Seathan tried prodding the log with the boathook and it became obvious it wasn’t just a log. It was a mooring, attached to the bottom (the Java Sea is very shallow, even in the middle of the ocean it’s only 50 to 60 metres deep). A huge mooring, with a massive floating bamboo log. Unmarked, of course. He managed to push it off (without getting in the water) and luckily none of the ropes were wrapped around the prop. No damage done. Thank goodness for the Antares and the fact that we have a shaft-drive with heavily skegged rudders. It would have been a different story if it had been a sail-drive. Phew. Getting back to sleep wasn’t really an option anymore after all that excitement. The kids, however, never woke up. Blissfully unaware of everything that was happening above deck and under the water…
So here we are in Karimunjawa, after a rough 24h crossing from Bawean. We had massive thunder, lightning right above and around us, whirlwinds, choppy seas,… very unseasonal. The NW monsoon arrived early and with an unusual intensity. Climate change? El Niña? Who knows! All I know is that we’re caught in a trap, weather-wise. It’s going to be a hard slog getting out of Indonesia. We’re trying to pick the best moments, doing short coastal hops if necessary. Seathan is route-planning as we speak. We’re here with two other boats, our buddy boat Impetuous Too and another catamaran. All trying to get to Malaysia … Fingers crossed we find a weather gap!
Heading West during the start of the NW Monsoon is a hard slog. We’re picking our moments few and far between! From Bali we sailed across the Java Sea and encountered a few heavy squalls (think roaring forties). Nothing the boat and the crew couldn’t manage, but not very pleasant nonetheless…
We’re taking a few days rest in Bawean, a small island in the middle of the Java Sea, to wait for some more favourable weather before we continue to Belitung. Last night, we had some crazy squalls with the most thunder and lightning we’ve ever experienced. Never seen so much energy being released from the sky. It started blowing violently up to 40 knots and the boat was bouncing around on the anchor. The kids? They didn’t even wake up!
Quite different from the rest of Indonesia. After the barren landscape of Flores and Komodo we are back in lush and green surroundings. We sailed past erupting Mount Agung and then continued West quickly to hide for an approaching tropical cyclone. We found the perfect hurricane hole in West Bali’s national park. The cyclone headed south and fizzled out anyway, but we stayed and enjoyed a few relaxing days in this beautiful remote area of Bali. I say remote, but there are in fact several luxury resorts out here, all with infinity pool, beachside restaurants and even some hot springs.
We spent last night anchored underneath Mount Agung, Bali, as it was erupting. Are we crazy??? Not really. We were outside the 12 km exclusion zone and not at risk should it erupt. The only thing we had to watch out for was the ash cloud which can cause trouble breathing. Luckily, the wind was blowing the ash away from us. We were ready to lift anchor and leave as soon as the situation changed but there was no need. No fireworks last night, no eruption. This morning the volcano started producing more smoke and ash and it feels like a massive eruption is very imminent. We decided to lift anchor at the crack of dawn and are now sailing away from Mount Agung, heading west ⛵️.
We’ve posted a short video on YouTube:
Pictures from yesterday evening and this morning:
We spent the last few days in the Gili Islands, Lombok. It meant we’ve had front row seats to watch Mount Agung erupt from a safe distance. But … we need to head west and get past that smoking giant. So, today we bit the bullet and sailed towards it. Don’t worry, we’re safe (we think) and still outside the 12 km exclusion zone, in Amed, north Bali.
The short hop from Lombok to the north of Bali was busy to say the least: tankers left and right, a huge approaching squall and an erupting volcano right ahead of us. Now the weather has calmed down and we’re safely at anchor. Hopefully get some good shots of Mount Agung tonight. It’s very exciting and also a little bit scary.
The Gili Islands were super cool. They call it the “Ibiza of Indonesia” and I can see why. There are plenty of stylish restaurants and cool bars, the atmosphere is very relaxed and it’s heaving with young trendy people. You can circumnavigate the island by bike or by foot easily and there are no motorized vehicles, only bikes and horses with carts.
Yesterday, we took a day-trip by car into Mataram, Lombok to renew our visas. The usual monthly bureaucratic hit. Forms, stamps, more stamps, queues, etc. We were told we could pick up our passports in 3 days and nearly choked. After much begging and pleading, explaining our dependency on the weather and our need to continue west asap, we were allowed a brief meeting with the immigration chief who authorised a same day delivery. Everything is possible in this country as long as you keep smiling, have patience and follow the rules.
Now what about that volcano? We will see what tonight brings, if it erupts, we will just lift anchor and keep sailing west and if it doesn’t we’ll have a good night’s sleep and hopefully some great photos to share! Right now we feel very privileged to be here.
We sailed 300 NM or so in the last few days to Gili Air, Lombok. We can see Mount Agung smoking and puffing from our cockpit and just found out this afternoon that it erupted yesterday and the highest level 4 alert is now in place; expectations are that a massive eruption could happen any minute. Whoops. Perhaps we shouldn’t have stopped here.
We’re still 60 km away from Mount Agung on Bali, but, the wind is blowing this direction and we would get covered in volcanic ash if it violently erupted. So, we could leave and head for the north-west of Bali, but, did I mention the wind is blowing in this direction? Yep. We would rather wait a few days for more favourable sailing conditions before we continue our trek west.
The ride here was up and down. Day one was very calm and pleasant with just enough wind to keep the sails full. We stopped just before nightfall, had a good night’s sleep at anchor and then continued early the next day. The wind kept increasing and the waves got bigger. By midday we had a steady 30 to 40 knots and, I can tell you, it wasn’t very pleasant. We’re not used to such rough sailing conditions anymore! In fact, most of our sailing in Indonesia has been “champagne sailing” with flat seas and a decent breeze.
So, day 2 was very rough with nowhere to stop for the night and we had no choice but to keep going. Fortunately, the wind died down during the night and we sailed into a calm anchorage the next afternoon. After that, we did two more day hops which were very pleasant. And now we are in Gili Air, a small island just off the coast of Lombok. But … there is this huge volcano threatening to erupt !! Life is never boring on a sailing boat.