Romantic Escape, Chased by Warship

Last weekend was a four-day long break for most people in Singapore. On Friday, the young nation celebrated its 54th birthday and on Monday, there was a public holiday for the annual Muslim observation of Haji (the ritual pilgrimage to Mecca). Friends at Raffles Marina were planning a short week cruising around the south of Batam, Indonesia, and we decided to take a couple of extra days off and join in the fun.

The kids are away in Belgium at the moment, visiting their grandparents, so it would be a romantic sail, just the two of us onboard for the first time ever. We had looked at doing a city trip to Vietnam or visiting temples in Cambodia, but, to be honest, the thought of busy airports, hotels, sightseeing, … didn’t quite excite us. When your boat is your home, you can just throw the lines without having to pack any bags and go explore. No queues, no traffic, no crowds. I was very much looking forward to a few nights at anchor, a swim in the sea off the back of the boat, some yoga at sunrise and a few sundowners with new sailing friends.

We cast off at dawn on Thursday and proceeded to the Western Quarantine and Immigration Anchorage, 22 nautical miles southeast of Raffles Marina. A few minutes after we called them on the radio, the immigration vessel arrived to clear us out of the country. We handed our paperwork over, using a fishing net, and they returned it soon after, with all the necessary stamps attached. Efficient and fast, as you would expect from Singapore.

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The Western Quarantine and Immigration Anchorage, Singapore

What followed was a busy day, avoiding the many tankers in the Strait, and, we had to pick our moment carefully to cross the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme).

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Busy as usual, crossing the Singapore Strait

We arrived in Nongsa early afternoon and were welcomed by many old friends. The marina took care of all the paperwork and we were all set to leave early the next day for our 50 miles sail south, to Ranoh Island. A few more Singapore-based yachts were joining the trip, so it promised to be a bit of a social gathering.

The sail south was wonderful. The industrial landscape of the north of the island disappeared quickly, to make way for lush green islands. It felt good to be back in Indonesia.

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We had beautiful sailing weather

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The green and lush islands south of Batam, Indonesia

The anchorage near Ranoh Island was well protected, although a bit rolly. It didn’t stop us from enjoying a refreshing swim and a good sleep. Ranoh Island itself is a beautiful setup with white sand, palm trees, a beach bar and restaurant and all sorts of water activities to keep the day guests entertained (who were dropped off by a fast ferry from Batam late morning).

We had a chill-day ashore and then some sun-downers on a nearby beach while watching the sunset and I felt like we were back in cruising mode.

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Ranoh Island

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The beach bar at Ranoh Island

On the way back up, we anchored for one night nearby Piayu Island and a recommended local seafood restaurant. Black pepper crab, gong-gongs (local sea snails), chilli prawns, crayfish, fried cuttlefish, steamed fish, scallops, … yum!

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The seafood restaurant at Piayu Island

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Piayu Island

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Sundowners onboard Rehua

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Cheers!

And then it was time to head back to Nongsapoint Marina for outward clearance. We had an extremely enjoyable downwind cruise with the sails goose-winged while surfing the two to three metres high waves. We were smoking along at eight or nine knots until, all of a sudden, the radio crackled.

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Goose-winged sailing down the coast of Batam

“Sailing vessel Rehua, sailing vessel Rehua, do you copy? This is the warship on your starboard side.”

“Warship, Warship, this is sailing vessel Rehua on channel 16. Over.”

“Rehua, Rehua, channel 17. Repeat, channel one-seven. Over.”

” Warship, Warship. Copy. One-seven.”

A huge 250ft Indonesian warship had approached us and they wanted to board us. There was no way Seathan was going to let that happen. They would simply crush us and could seriously damage our boat.

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An Indonesian warship approaching Rehua

“Rehua, Rehua, this is Warship, please switch off your engines and stop your vessel.”

“Warship, Warship, this is Rehua. We are currently sailing under sail power alone. Our engines ARE switched off. Repeat, our engines are switched off.”

This was then followed by a long silence where we suspected they were waiting to get the conversation translated by HQ before they could respond.

Next, they asked us to change course and we had to explain that would involve us lowering the sails first and we would need to point our vessel into the wind to do that, and, they would need to move out of the way.

Another long silence.

After more back and forth, with many radio silences in between, we managed to convince them to lower their tender.

Meanwhile, we were still on course for Nongsapoint Marina and only a few miles away from our destination by now.

Eventually, three heavily armed figures appeared in a small tender and we agreed to hand them our paperwork in a fishing net. We tried to explain that because their tender is not a soft, inflatable one, it could still seriously damage our boat should they try to board us. As you can imagine, two moving vessels and a big swell makes these type of manoeuvres extremely tricky. They said they would ‘try’ not to damage us.

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We handed over our paperwork using a fishing net

More conversations followed on the radio. From channel 16 to channel 17 to the translators at HQ and, finally, they asked for our passports. And they still wanted to board us too.

“Why do you need to board us?” Seathan asked. “You have seen all our papers. Is there a problem?”

They weren’t sure how to answer this. The three guys in the tender radioed back and forth with the big warship and the response we got was “because our commander says so.”

Hmmmh.

Seathan suggested they could come onboard once we were in the marina (by now we were getting very close).

“Sir, you are not allowed to enter port until we release you,” was the response on the radio.

We seemed to be stuck in an impossible situation. They asked us one more time where we came from and where we had been and where we were heading. Then, more conversations between the warship and the guys on the tender and HQ.

And then, for some reason unclear to us, they just handed us our papers and passports back and we were free to go. We even had a chat with the three guys in the tender about our trip and crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific. They wanted to take some selfies with us and Rehua in the background. When we asked whether we could take their picture, they happily posed with their guns in hand. Big smiles, lots of waving and off they sped, back to the warship, which was a good few miles away by now. I hoped they had enough petrol to make it back.

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Big smiles and happy faces after all the checks were done

In the meantime, we were just outside the marina and had to make sure we didn’t crash into the reef.

We were very happy to tie alongside the dock in Nongsa where our friends from SV Windancer were waiting for us with a celebratory beer in hand. They were lucky to escape the warship too, because they would have been next in line. They had heard the entire story unfold on the radio.

One more night in Nongsa and then back to Raffles Marina. Another busy day of crossing shipping lanes, avoiding big tankers.

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Nongsapoint Marina, Batam

It was a perfect little escape. Sunshine, beautiful sailing weather, relaxed time alone and with friends. I feel totally recharged and refreshed. 😊

 

Accidents Happen…

I know it’s part of life and most parents will have to deal with it at some point, but it is soooooo upsetting. At a lovely Sunday BBQ with friends, here in Nongsa, the kids went to jump on the trampoline and an attempted front flip went wrong. Aeneas came running for help: “Come quickly, there is lots of blood, Tyrii has hurt himself.” He was in tears himself. Seathan and two other guys rushed to the scene and it turned out Tyrii had bitten his lip in two. Lots of blood. Lots of pain. Lots of tears. First to the local clinic in the resort and then straight to the hospital in Batam for stitches. I’m so grateful Seathan is good at dealing with these kind of emergency situations. I’m not that great with blood and injuries…

Tyrii was very, very brave when they had to stick a big needle in his tongue for a local anaesthetic. Seathan had to watch and assist the surgeon sewing the tip of Tyrii’s tongue back together. I think the image will haunt him for quite a while. When Tyrii got back to Rehua last night, he managed a little bit of chocolate milkshake and scrambled eggs. Eating is going to be difficult for the next few weeks. He’s also on a course of antibiotics and painkillers. We hope he heals quickly.

 

Other news. We’re still in Nongsapoint marina, but will be moving to Singapore with the boat in  the next couple of weeks. I signed a 12-month contract and we’re just waiting for the Employment Pass (work visa) to come through. It will be a big change, going back to work, but it will be good top up the coffers before we continue across the Indian Ocean. Seathan will be a ‘boat-husband’ and take over the homeschooling until we settle in and then perhaps we can look at schools. We’ll continue to live aboard Rehua of course.

Finally, a few pictures from this morning, when we joined the start of the Neptune Regatta. This annual event is very popular with Singapore sailors and takes everyone to the Equator (near Neptune Island) and back in a week-long regatta.

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waiting for the start sign

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the committee boat

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At the start-line

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Rona is at the party

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Captain David and Lia

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Prime Factor, Seathan used to race against this one in Sydney

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Start for the multihulls

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And they’re off…

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Beautiful classic yacht Rona

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Rehua in Nongsapoint Marina

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Anambas, Please

Summer wasn’t over after all. We had a few more weeks of glorious sunshine (and the odd rainy day, I admit). The Anambas Islands really rate as one of the top places we’ve been to in our four years of cruising. It’s just the perfect combination of remote island life with deserted sandy beaches, numerous protected anchorages to choose from in ‘day-hop-distance’, crystal clear water with beautiful underwater marine life and friendly locals.

After our visit to Pulau Pahit where we saw turtles hatch (magical!) we went south of Tarempa to visit a few more islands where we hadn’t stopped yet. First one was Pulau Tina, just west of Memperuk Island.

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Pulau Tina in the sunshine

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same island, at sunset

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S/V Chantilly getting their toys out, to the delight of our boys

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surf dude

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aqua boy

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great snorkeling around Pulau Tina

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Next, we headed a few miles east to another small island called Telukbakau (try pronouncing that one), where we caught up with S/V Intrigue. It was just another perfect setting with a gorgeous beach; it would have been a crime not to have a beach fire at sunset on it.

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our friends on S/V Chantilly

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just another gorgeous beach to stop at

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it would have been a crime not to have a beach fire on this one

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always love a good sunset

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S/V Intrigue, S/V Chantilly and S/V Rehua

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palmtrees agains the pink evening sky

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pink rocks

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that rock just had to climbed

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next morning, time for some beach combing 

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S/V Rehua, S/V Chantilly and S/V Intrigue 

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sand everywhere

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going for a morning stroll

We continued further south and stopped off at Dikar Reef. It’s some of the most crystal-clear pristine water we’ve seen, reminding us of our time in French Polynesia… and we were all alone, anchored in 3 metres of water with nothing but turquoise water around us. It was like being anchored in the middle of giant swimming pool.

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approaching Dikar Reef, our next stop

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beautiful crystal-clear turquoise water

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anchored in 3 metres over sand

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Rehua’s shadow on the sand

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kids can’t wait to jump in

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‘Bora-Bora blue’

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some of the clearest water we’ve seen

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we especially put our swimsuits on for the picture 😉

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water as flat as pancake

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on our way out of the anchorage

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leaving Dikar reef

We continued further south to Pulau Airabu, passing a few villages along the way and even a cellphone tower that gave us a (very rare) quick boost of 4G.

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Pulau Airabu with cellphone tower

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typical Anambas-style village with stilted huts

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And then, our final stop, just south of Pulau Lintang. Another beach begging to have a beach fire on it, more fantastic snorkelling and lots of small islands dotted around the anchorage, waiting to be explored. We were sad to leave but it was time to head back to Nongsapoint…

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view from the cockpit near Pulau Lintang

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quick dip

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one more gorgeous sunset

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and one more fire on the beach

 

The End of Summer?

Well, of course there is no summer or winter here; we are in the tropics, very close to the equator in fact. There are, however, two very distinctive weather patterns: the NE monsoon and the SW monsoon. The first one runs roughly from November to May and the latter from June to October. Or thereabouts, because there is always a transitional period in between monsoons. And right now we are wondering whether that transitional period has started already? It’s mid-October and we have had a lot of rain in the last week. Which is great for the watertanks (especially as our watermaker broke down AGAIN – this time it’s the membrane that needs replacing). Not so great if it means being cooped inside a small boat all day with a family of four. So, it feels a bit like summer is over right now. It even feels chilly now that the temperature has dropped to about 28 degrees C (oh how we will ever manage to acclimatise to northern European weather again).

But enough complaining, the weather definitely hasn’t stopped us from enjoying these beautiful islands and the Anambas have continued to surprise us.

Our first week here was a lot of fun as we got to catch up with our Danish friends onboard S/V Tsonoqua. We met up near our favourite picture-perfect desert island, just north of the main town Tarempa. The sail from Batam to there had taken us just over 24 hours and was truly idyllic: calm seas, just enough wind to keep the sails up, full moon and to top it all off a pod of dolphins escorted and welcomed us to the islands. And crossing like that don’t happen often: I think I can count the amount of perfect crossings like that during the last four years on one hand.

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an idyllic 24 hour crossing from Batam to Anambas: calm seas, full moon, just enough wind, …

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…and dolphins!

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we arranged to meet our Danish friends at this desert island near Pulau Tenggiling 

We arrived early afternoon and once the anchor was dug into the sand, the kids couldn’t wait to hop into the dinghy, pick up their Danish friends and head to the beach for a catch up.

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happy to be reunited with their friends

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see ya later!

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private catch up on the beach

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and the parents onboard Rehua

We island hopped together and enjoyed some beautiful weather, fires on the beach and dinners together onboard.

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‘Pencil-dot Island’, there’s a story behind the name, I’m sure?

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kids are off to the beach

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having fun on the SUPs

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snorkeling action

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the anchorage in the sunshine

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and in the rain …

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sunset behind the palmtrees, seen from the cockpit

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next stop: Penjalin Island and ‘BBQ-beach’

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with the perfect plunge pool

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sundowners on the beach

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sausage-roll on a stick for dinner

There was one disappointing development in Moonrock Bay, one of our favourite anchorages. Since our last visit here, a few months ago, the construction of a resort has started there. Apparently, the entire island is now private and they plan to ban yachts and local fishermen from entering the lagoon. It’s a shame and I really object to these type of so-called eco resorts that are just an excuse to make yet another beautiful island accessible only to the rich in the name of marine environment protection. The entire Anambas are in fact a marine conservation area and some of these resorts pretend they are creating yet another level of protection, but, I wonder if it is just an excuse to keep everyone out and make their island and lagoon accessible only to the very few.

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stunning Moonrock Bay

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the kids on top of the rock

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obligatory family shot

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start of the construction works in Moonrock bay

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the company that apparently wants to ban yachts and locals from entering this lagoon (photo credit SV Chantilly)

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‘Hilton pool’ on the other side of Moonrock bay, perfect swimming pool water and there’s nobody around 😉

After our Danish friends had to leave for Malaysia, we spent a couple of nights anchored all alone in a lovely bay near ‘Sandspit Island’ before heading into Tarempa for some veggies and water. And, unbelievable but true, another kid boat was in town! A Swedish family this time. We also bumped into some Aussie friends on Chantilly and together spent a week hopping further around the islands.

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Chantilly, Galeforce and Rehua, anchored in front of Pahat Island

Our most remarkable experience in the last couple of weeks (probably one of the most amazing experiences in the last 4 years) was this one afternoon on Pahat Island. We had gone ashore to meet the local fishermen that were based there and it appeared there was some type of turtle sanctuary set up. All very basic and no visitor centre or information or anything like that, and with our limited Indonesian it was difficult to understand what was going on. Plenty of hand-gestures, a lot of smiling and nodding and eventually we understood that this one local guy was in charge to look after the island, and, that he was also looking after the turtle eggs that were dropped all over the island. He even marked the estimated hatching dates and showed us a bucket full of 4-day old baby turtles that he planned to release when they were 15 days old (not sure what the reasoning was behind this). A bit later on, he showed us the area where the turtle eggs were kept (behind a fence to protect them from other predators) and to our utter delight, one batch had just hatched that very afternoon. They were all crawling out of their hole, tiny newly born baby turtles all covered in sand. They were the cutest things I’ve ever seen. The local guy helped them to come up out of the sand and put them in a bucket to then release them a bit closer to the waterline. As soon as they were let out, they made a run for it and seeing all those hundreds of tiny turtles run into the water and swim away was just the most amazing spectactle I have ever witnessed. What a privilege to see this happen and how amazing nature is.

 

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the turtles are off (photo credit SV Chantilly)

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cute little guy (photo credit SV Chantilly)

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a helping hand to get them into the water

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the cutest thing I’ve ever seen

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hundreds of tiny turtles running into the sea

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the beach at Pahat Island

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this little guy is 4 days old and will be released when he’s 15 days old

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messing around with the camera

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hovering on the beach

It also made me very sad to think how many of these cute little creatures won’t survive for very long. Some will get eaten, but worse, some will get trapped in plastic rubbish that is floating around everywhere. It’s a huge problem and we’ve seen many beautiful beaches just drowned in plastic. Check out this new BBC documentary called “Drowning in Plastic”. It’s so sad to see how much damage plastic is doing to our oceans and the animals in it.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bmbn47

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the Anambas have amazing snorkeling, this was taken at Sandspit Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marina Life

We’ve spent the last few weeks in Nongsapoint marina in Batam, Indonesia. A great place to do some boat maintenance. Seathan fixed our water maker and fitted our engines with new fuel injectors and we are good to go again. We also got stuck into the new school year and caught up as we had a bit of a break last month while we were in the Anambas. And of course we also met up with a few yachties, made some new friends and shared a few beers at happy hour in the marina bar (aka NPM prison bar) 😇.

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Nongsapoint marina, Batam, Indonesia

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New parts arrived. Yay!

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Fitting the new fuel injectors

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The marina at low tide

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Quite a few super yachts in this marina!

While we were waiting for parts to arrive, we made a couple of quick trips into Singapore (very handy to have the fast ferry into Singapore next door to the marina). And it wasn’t just to do the tourist thing. I met up with some old colleagues to start asking around about job opportunities. After four years of traveling, it might be time to start looking at doing some work again 😬. We’ll see what transpires. In the meantime, we plan to take one more trip to the Anambas. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from us for a little while as there’s not much internet out there 😊.

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Singapore getting ready for the GP earlier this month

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View from the National Gallery’s rooftop

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Bars along Boat Quay

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Skyline at night

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Quick day trip into Singapore, to renew our monthly visas

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AC units around the back of the restaurants. Can’t be doing much good to the environment.

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Boat Quay

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exploring town

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Raffles is everywhere

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Can we go back now?

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Back at the marina, just in time for a late afternoon dip in the pool.

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!

Exit Indonesia

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!

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Tanjung Pendam is a large beachfront park, close to where we are anchored

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great place to practise scooter tricks

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quick trip to the barber shop, checking out the menu…

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latest hairstyle trends in Indonesia…

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let’s just keep it simple

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result

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and then, a final diesel run

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team effort

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waiting in the Customs Office, monopoly and chocolate cake

And I could walk 500 miles…

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

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waiting waiting in…  Kariwhere? Just look on the hill to remember where we are … 

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time to leave, heading towards the pass

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our buddy boat Impetuous Too, zooming along nicely

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Christmas Eve sunset at sea 

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Not a bad show and remember, red sky at night … 

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day-hopping along the SW coast of Belitung

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local fishing boat

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this one could do with a lick of paint

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pulling our friends along

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Tyrii gives them a quick nudge to help with anchoring position

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view from our cockpit in Tanjung Pandan

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Tanjung Pandan sunrise

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first thing we notice when we venture into town: they have decent roads. Surely that must be a good sign. Maybe they’ll have decent supermarkets too?

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And yes! Beer! Even the Belgian stuff, that’s the first time I’ve seen Duvel in Indonesia

“Monsoon Madness”

I suppose after years of an ultramarine and turquoise lifestyle most of you will say we deserve a bit of personalised wintery weather…….well it’s here in spades.                         Looking forward, the next four or five days will likely be the same as the last four or five days, coffee swilling,  deck pacing, weather downloading, meal cooking,  activity planning, most of which will not come to fruition because it’s wall to wall gigabyte sized squalls cut and pasted on top of a good 20-25 knts of spinoff from Cyclone Kai-Tak up north.  We had 48 knts over the deck at 0400hrs yesterday,  what fun, “damn I wish I had put out that extra 10 meters of chain in the afternoon”, you sit, number crunching at the helm, ears strained, listening for chain scrape, your buttocks unwittingly clenched, waiting, waiting, for the slip, the drift into deep black space………the reef clad shore 500mtrs away, but it doesn’t come, our Manson Supreme 60 pounder on 50 mtrs of 3/8″ holds like an advert, the rain increases to a grey, horizontally streaked mass, the wind backs a little and you relax ever so slightly in your seat………but not too much, accidents can happen! All three yachts were well lit by this stage and I suspect a mutual current of fear and loathing for this wearisome weather was aboard each and every one. The local Harbour Authority have called all ships into port due to 4-5 mtr swell outside and ferries are cancelled until further notice. We have scoured every weather model for a glimmer of letup, Friday looks promising, but wait, its madness to leave on a Friday, superstitious madness, so let’s look at Saturday, keep you posted on that one it’s not like we have anything else to do! Meanwhilst the fair is now in town in the form of a “four deep” raft of the most colourful, grubby, fishing boats ever to grace a waterfront, but the crews smile and laugh and caper like it’s a holiday park, just goes to show how bloody hard these guys are, all nets and lines are manhandled the only help a small boom type crane with a 2:1 block system.

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Don’t linger downwind of these puppies!

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No Parahandy culture aboard here, they are all SunnyJims.

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That is cloud above, not so different from when all galley stoves are fired up.

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Thes guys are flyweights in boxing terms, all of them, imagine setting and hauling that lot by hand, all day and night, no wonder they are smiling today 🙂

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Mean whilst, at school today we learned a new word……… J.A.C.K.E.T……..

 

 

Caught in a trap.

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!

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unmarked huge 10 metres bamboo float, caught underneath our hulls

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huge squall is chasing us as we leave Bawean

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The wisps you see were quickly forming williwaws.

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The small point in the cloud (centre) was a full blown mini tornado a few moments earlier, you can still see the water being lifted below.

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sunrise, looking better with the squalls gone (for now)

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This one flagged us down just for the hell of it, we are always wary they are trying to indicate they have nets out.

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This boat was frantically waving us down, I can only assume to assist with a tow into the town 10 nm away, sorry boys not enough horsepower aboard!