Indonesia, from Medana Bay to Malaysia
24 October 2015
After our Medana Bay experiences our cruising became more routine. We sailed a few days to Lovina Beach on the north side of the island of Bali where upscale living was encountered. We avoided fishing vessels by sailing at night 10 miles off the coast. When we arrived in Bali at dawn there was a local fisherman/ entrepreneur who led us in, helped us anchor and became our go to guy for anything we wished to buy. Bail is an affluent tourist island and there were some expensive shops to buy European products. The other Indonesian rally boats were there as well so the anchorage was crowded but we met a whole new group of new people.
We left Lovina Beach for Karaman-Java island about 280 miles west and chose to avoid going to Kalimantan to see the orangutans because of the huge smoke problem from local big businesses burning down the jungle to grow more palms for synthetic diesel oil production. Visibility was about ½ mile at times and several boats had to leave for health reasons.
We sailed by perhaps a dozen oil and gas drilling rigs that lit up the sky at night. They were so big and massive that their distance was deceiving. At one time I saw a red orange light and thought that there was a fishing boat several miles away. Over the next few hours we didn’t make any progress on it and maybe 5 hours later we finally passed the rig.
The waters of Indonesia are entirely fished out of large fish and all one encounters are small boats with nets pulling in small fish many of which are sardines. Fish is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our time in KaramanJawa was uneventful and soon we moved on to Belitung, an island about 250 miles northwest up towards Singapore. The trip up was eventful because the first night we traveled in the midst of 30 squid fishing boats. These boats are brightly lit up with lights to attract the squid to the surface and where they are netted. This must be a huge worldwide demand for squid because everywhere we were we saw these awkward boats long distances from the shore fishing at night.
Belitung is a small Island that has two relatively uncomfortable harbors and we needed to spend several days there arranging to clear out of Indonesia. When we finally left we were set with anticipation, as our next destination was Malaysia. To get there we had to travel across the Singapore shipping channels, no small feat! Our plan was to sail for 3 days and stop to rest up for the night. Carry on the fourth day. Anchor and rest and cross over the following morning. All went well until we reached our final stopover harbor. We both fell asleep as soon as the anchor was down and awoke at about 2:30 pm. I decided to check the tide tables as we were going to need to travel with the current and I discovered that if we didn’t leave immediately we were going to have to fight a counter current for almost 8 hours. This was not our plan. Visibility was only ½ mile from the smoke and we only had 3 hours of daylight left. This would have to be enough to cross both channels. We left immediately and headed straight to the Southern shipping channel. Singapore is a very busy port, even though many boats are anchored an out of service with the downturn. These boats in transit steam at about 10 knots to 25 knots down the channel and one has to time their crossing to stay clear of the behemoths.
We have an AIS which was invaluable for indicating where and how fast these boats were and were traveling and I felt like I was playing Pacman on the computer, trying to anticipate where to cross (preferably behind!) these commercial vessels. When an opportunity arose we went for it and crossed the first shipping lane in 10 minutes with no real close calls. We then motored across the anchorage avoiding all of the stationary vessels and set ourselves up for the crossing of the north channel. This was much tougher as it was twice as wide and there was considerably more traffic. We had to wait maybe 20 minutes for a slot to open up and then we committed. It took 20 minutes to cross and we had a humongous car carrier coming down on us at 25 knots but of course had next to no visibility. We avoided him then had to alter course to avoid a tug and barge travelling outside the channel in the opposite direction. Finally we were done with the hard part! Phew!! Dusk was coming up fast and we needed to find a place to anchor for the night. As we travelled up river we viewed maybe 10 oil and gas rigs sitting in moth-balls among the hundreds of anchored ships. It was a spectacle similar in magnitude to our passing though the Panama Canal and we will never forget the scale of our images.
The next morning we motored up river with the current to Puteri Harbour Marina. Located just across the river from Singapore, it is upscale Malaysia living!
Here we were able to find people to repair our welding failures and diagnose and treat our engine malfunctions. It is hot and humid and we are having a difficult time adjusting to the heat. We did buy a portable a/c unit that takes much of the sting out of the heat.
Next up Singapore!
From the Crew of Always Saturday