Little Green Boat

Spruce left the UK in 2011, arrived in SE Asia during 2015. Finished land/air touring in Asia. Afloat again and getting ready to head east to Raja Ampat and on to Japan and Alaka in 2018.

23 May 2017 | Western Anambas Islands - Indonesia
18 May 2017 | Western Anambas Islands - Indonesia
15 May 2017 | Beautiful Anambas Islands
15 May 2017
15 May 2017
12 May 2017 | Anambas Islands - Indonesia
10 May 2017 | Anambas Islands - Indonesia
07 May 2017 | Anambas Islands - Indonesia
05 May 2017 | Anambas Islands - Indonesia
02 May 2017 | Tarempa - Anambas Island - Indonesia
02 May 2017
02 May 2017
02 May 2017
02 May 2017
02 May 2017
01 May 2017 | South China Sea
28 April 2017 | Teleuk Tekek - Tioman - Malaysia
28 April 2017
28 April 2017
28 April 2017

Low-Tech Fishing

23 May 2017 | Western Anambas Islands - Indonesia
In the last blog, we wrote of relatively hi-tech squid platforms riding the currents in the inter-island selats (channels) overnight. This photo shows the lower technology end of techniques seen in the Anambas Islands. Near to villages, people paddle canoes, carved from a single tree-trunk with prow and stern colourfully painted, to nearby reefs. A face mask is donned and heads immersed into the water on one side, often fishermen lay right across the canoe with legs overhanging to avoid capsizing the precarious balance. Sometimes a spear is held, now and again, a line with hook tantilisingly baited is dangled before the fish pursued. These craft are steered around the reef zones by a leg kicking on one side and an arm the other, propelling the canoe in pursuit of the next meal. Further from civilisation, a single cylinder diesel engine powered boat may heave into view. The resonant tok-tok noise of the unsilenced motor heralds the arrival long before the vessel is sighted. Water gushes from a plastic pipe hanging outboard, the heated raw salt-water cooling fluid returns to the ocean. Usually these are low freeboard craft. Difficult to see in the swell, up to two canoes are carried on the narrow squat superstructure, occasionally another towed astern. They range everywhere around the islands, once anchored the canoes are deployed and fishing commences in the manner described above. Even in the deeper waters between islands, a sharp lookout must be kept for tiny canoes; often the first sighting is a torso sitting in the waves, the hull invisible: alternatively, perhaps water flying into the air as another bout of frantic bailing is undertaken. If the pilot is lying with face submerged, as little as 200-metres warning may be all you get to avoid a collision. We spent time in the western island of Djemaja. The east coast did not offer the sharp drop-offs in depth from coastal reefs we like to dive. A snorkel survey of adjacent Gumbong, a small offshore islet, did offer steep edges but the quantity of coral seemed sparse. Many Crown of Thorns starfish were spotted, these beasts are responsible for eating huge quantities of coral, and excessive numbers are not good for reef survival: perhaps this is why coral is limited here. A lovely drift snorkel, riding a current running through a cut, was had: plenty of lush corals and fish were to be found in this shallower region. The winds associated with the SW-Monsoon are becoming steadier as the season progresses; strangely, they typically blow from SSE here. The latest spate of 15 knots winds were used for a cracking 25-mile beat towards isles closer to the main island and Tarempa. We have only another week before we must clear out of this beautiful archipelago and sail east towards Malaysian Borneo.

Chummy Cumi!

18 May 2017 | Western Anambas Islands - Indonesia
The word for small squid in Bahasa Indonesian is Cumi, (pronounced Chu-mi). And the human density at which locals pack their rafts for night fishing expeditions definitely smacks of chumminess. The industry might be small scale but it is organised efficiently at the village level. The first requirement is a pair of long floats onto which a structure can be fabricated. We have seen floats made with huge logs and Heath-Robinson affairs using empty plastic fuel drums: all lashed together with polypropylene rope. A wooden framework is then erected onto which a flat working platform can be laid. The all-important generator housing and accommodation shed are the only solid structures added. At each end, and along the sides, wooden frames are raised to provide mountings for a host of bright floodlights. With the approach of dusk, harsh metallic tok-tok noises move towards these scattered platforms, moored during the daytime in creeks and bays. Hordes of crew leap board and these ungainly looking vessels are towed to offshore stations for the night's work; rope rodes attached to anchors tether the craft in fifty to sixty metre depths. The by now indistinct distant silhouette emits the muted sound of the generator engine as it fires up. Banks of lights spring into illumination, a row at a time. There they stay until the whole process is reversed with the first blush of dawn reaching into the eastern skies. We now realise some of the brightly lit craft we first encountered in the channel approaching Kupang, upon our first arrival in Indonesian waters during 2015, were of this type. Incandescent at night and gone by dawn, so easy to assume they were all conventional boats because no detail can be discerned through the haze of brilliance emitting a glowing aura while they fish. The advantage of this arrangement is a small motor boat can manoeuvre a relatively inexpensive fishing structure into position. Probably far more economical than squid-boats we saw in Flores, each sporting two large flimsy outriggers at the sides to create the working platform. It is interesting to see how diverse communities solve similar problems with alternative solutions.

How Unspoiled?

15 May 2017 | Beautiful Anambas Islands
Andy & Sue
Glorious skyscapes ephemerally cloak the heavens in abstract patterns during the short period of dawn break in these beautiful islands. Stand off a little way and the scenery is stunning. Perfect arrangements of palms, rocks and sea vie for attention, almost as if a Bonsai expert has been appointed to work as a large-scale exterior designer. Is that the whole picture? Look closer and one of the huge problems faced by island communities comes into sharp focus.

15 May 2017
Rubbish and discarded items inexorably find their way into the sea. Some of this alien detritus is deposited directly into the water from local craft or coastal communities. Off the Malaysian coast, one always knew where the fishing fleet of small boats had congregated overnight. At around dawn a cluster of empty plastic bottles bobbed on the horizon ahead, a clearly defined zone of discarded objects. Passing closer a plethora of plastic bags and maybe a rice-sack or two hove into view. Along with offcuts of rope and net, hazards that must be dodged, they would play havoc if wrapped around the propeller.
This “desert island”, in the photo, sits in a strong tidal stream during the ebb: we must hasten to add, this is an extreme example, and some other beaches are almost pristine. What looked inviting from afar is less so as steps are imprinted into the freshly uncovered sand. An assortment of synthetic materials lay where the last tide deposited them: rope, plastic bags, disposable cigarette lighters bottles and a selection of the odd flip-flops (thongs or jandals for our antipodean cousins) that travel the ocean currents.
Our thoughts turn to the islands we have visited right across the Pacific Ocean and on to here. Island life, when trading with the modern world, is expensive living. The levy applied to transport products into island communities adds to the cost. The incentive to get those items delivered is extraordinary; the expense to deal with subsequent waste, packaging and broken products is much less of a priority. From defunct bulldozers in Tonga’s Ha’Apai, a former international aid project finished, rust slowly leaching into the lagoon, to plastic waste disposed of in watercourses upstream from the mighty Ganges, all ultimately has an impact on the oceans, for that is where it eventually arrives.
We see action groups pressing to reduce the use of plastic water bottles and disposable bags in Europe, laudable and it sets a good example. However, is that genuinely where the biggest threat to the oceans exists? Around half the world population lives in Asia. The culture towards managing waste seems ambivalent. Until relatively recently natural materials were used for packaging and carrying, they rotted equally naturally when discarded. The same approach with modern synthetic materials will likely be disastrous for the planet’s oceans. Education in changing the culture towards rubbish will clearly play a role, but cost effective disposal mechanisms will also be needed.

15 May 2017
Here is an example of what a plastic bag seen “floating” at 15-metres depth looks like. Turtles eat jellyfish: perhaps this gives a clue why Turtle autopsies find plastic bags in their stomachs. Recently, dead whales have been found washed up with plastic in their digestive systems. A huge problem exists if marine life, so essential to ecosystem, is to flourish.

What is Missing?

12 May 2017 | Anambas Islands - Indonesia
Diving and snorkeling continue as our main activities here in the lovely Anambas Islands. Some locations exhibit plentiful fish, others are more Spartan in their offerings. The only large shoals we see are of small fry, often skipping in a silver ripple symphony across the surface, avoiding larger predators below. The ruffled water rapidly attracts terns from above, daintily dipping their heads into the airborne meal. This latest cluster of islets boasts a particular beauty. The juxtaposition of palms, pandanus, granite boulders and subtle hues of greens and pale greys against blue sky just looks perfect. Even threatening grey clouds building in the afternoon serve only to capture the splendour in a different frame. Greater numbers of fishing boats are hovering in this vicinity. More than in islets visited earlier. Perhaps this explains less underwater life found here. Patches of coral are devastated, whether broken by anchors, historical dynamite fishing -we saw that happening near Lombok in 2015 - or storm damage when huge volumes of water might stream through the channels, we do not know: certainly less fish are present. The photo shows a large specimen of Giant Moray Eel, pretty much at maximum size for the type, the first we have spotted in Anambas. A surprise indeed, eels are usually more frequently seen in the underwater tropics. That got us pondering on what else is not here: Black Tipped Reef Sharks, Sea Cucumbers, Nudibranchs, Crabs and Lobsters. Only two turtles have deigned to swim past and these were quite small. It is unimaginable these species were not once endemic. Perhaps the proximity of the Chinese market has seen them long ago whisked away. Possibly fish farming will be the future of fisher-folk in these parts: although, that has its own concerns with catching anchovy and other small species for fish-feed.
Vessel Name: Spruce
Vessel Make/Model: Hallberg Rassy 42 - Enderlein Design
Hailing Port: Portsmouth, UK
Crew: Sue & Andy
About: Sue is an artist, plays the flute and guitar. Andy enjoys technical challenges and hoped to learn to speak more Spanish. Unsuccessfully:-( Maybe this year?
Extra: During 2013 and 2014 we sailed across the Pacific to New Zealand and then Australia. 2015-16 brought us north into Asia. The past few years cruising has enabled us to visit many countries, meet lots of interesting people and to understand the world a little better.
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/littlegreenboat
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View towards Diamond Rock (Formerly HMS Diamond Rock) looking to the West from the anchorage at St Annes.
View towards Diamond Rock (Formerly HMS Diamond Rock) looking to the West from the anchorage at St Annes.
Added 12 March 2010