Indonesia, A Look Back
16 October 2017
So how was our 2 month in Indonesia? Probably the hardest 2 months of cruising we have done in the last 6 years. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Indonesia is a beautiful country with enough anchorages and reefs to spend a lifetime cruising here. And the people are probably the friendliest we have met on our travels, always smiling and happy to help.
However from a cruisers perspective there are a number of challenges. Distances. Wind. Obstacles...
First, distances. Indonesia covers a far greater area than we anticipated when we left Australia. We have traveled over 1400 nautical miles in the last two months since we arrived in Kupang, a lot of hours of traveling at 5-6 knots. This has been compounded by trying to sail only during daylight hours (see below). So many of our ‘cruising days’ were spent finding the next anchorage within 50 miles, getting up at 5, leaving the anchorage by 6 (first light) and arriving at the next anchorage at 4-5 in the afternoon (dusk), eating, sleeping, repeating.
Secondly the wind factor. One rally participant suggested they change the rally name from Sail Indonesia to Motor Indonesia! The winds were often light to non-existent and usually from the Southeast. Our predominant course was Northwest so we often had just enough wind to blow the diesel fumes from the engine exhaust into the cockpit! Again the wish to travel only during daylight and the distances between anchorages made motoring imperative on most days. Not to say we didn’t have a few great sails, we did - but they were few and far between.
Lastly the obstacles. Indonesia has 300 million inhabitants and I think the majority are out fishing most of the time! Because of the oppressive sun and heat during the day, as well as the practice of using lights to attract fish, night fishing predominates, making cruising at night challenging and potentially dangerous. Even during daytime hours fishing nets are a constant threat for propellors and rudders. We have been lucky - but we know of at least four fellow cruisers who have been tangled in nets. Two of whom had to jump over the side at night to free themselves. To make matters worse FADs (fish attracting devices) are scattered randomly across the ocean. These floating unlit platforms are challenging to see during the day and impossible to see at night. We hit one small one with only minor scratches to the hull and narrowly missing a large one that would have done significant damage. So during our two months in Indonesia we only did four overnight passages.
Again I should emphasize Indonesia is a great place to visit. There are challenges with poverty, lack of infrastructure and waste management, which is common to many developing nations (the amount of plastic in the ocean was alarming!), but the lack of development is also part if its charm. If we were to do it again we may have spent longer so we could stop and enjoy anchorages rather than constantly being on the move, or even take two seasons to do it justice.