Day 160, Year 3: So Hard to Say Goodbye
Date: Hari Kamis (Thursday), Bulan Oktober 16, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Day with Only One Rain Shower
Location: Tanjung Kelayang, Belitung, Indonesia
We “think” we will be leaving here in the morning, but we are having a hard time pulling away. We spent our morning looking at anchorages from here to Singapore, went ashore for lunch where we met up with Cancata and Cherokee, went out to the nearest island for snorkeling this afternoon, and then went back to that same little island for a book exchange over sundowners late this afternoon. We said our goodbyes to other cruisers “just in case” we really leave in the morning. Once we all arrive in
the Singapore area, it won’t be possible to gather on a little island for sundowners. And we will be spread over a half-dozen marinas in the area. Singapore’s harbor is the busiest in the world and although the island’s population is only 4.43 million, it sounds busier than New York City. So it is doubtful that we will see many cruisers while there. Most people will stay in that area until mid-November when the Sail Malaysia Rally begins, but we will head north through Malaysia no later than
the first of November. We want to get to Langkawi on the border between Malaysia and Thailand as soon as we can to get some boat work done. So on we march.
Day 159, Year 3: Belitung Farewell Dinner
Date: Hari (Wednesday), Bulan Oktober 15, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Mostly Sunny Day with Rain Showers
Location: Tanjung Kelayang, Belitung, Indonesia
First and foremost, Justin and Jo made it home safely to New Mexico. They were greeted by unseasonably cold weather, even snow in some of the higher areas, and that must have been quite a shock after the hot, hot weather they encountered here. They had a wonderful last two days in Bali, staying in Legion. This is a beach community just north of Kuta, and as with Kuta, it is a surfer’s dream. Both Jo and Justin surfed all day and really enjoyed the ocean. Since they live in the desert, they’ll
not be seeing the ocean for quite some time, so they’ll have to live on those memories.
Yesterday was quite a whirlwind of unexpected activity here. So much so that we didn’t get back to the boat last night until after 1 am, so I am writing this log the next morning. Yesterday we woke to a call on the radio from Dave on This Way Up asking if we had read an SMS message from him on our cell phone from the day before. We had not checked the cell phone, so Dave gave us a call and asked Mark to be the representative from the United States contingency of cruisers to do the thank you’s
at the farewell dinner last night. At each rally stop, a different country has been asked to host and sometimes the cruisers from that country have put on quite a show. We quickly looked at the rally list and found that there were only five other boats here from the US and we realized were going to have to really scramble to put something together. But what? Then a flurry of radio activity further complicated matters. Because this is the last rally stop, a number of people had a special thanks
they wanted to share, while others had poems, stories, and songs. So we made our US program one of inclusion. After all, we are the melting pot of world cultures. We started off with an Olympic style parade of flags from the countries in the rally and Mark made some comparisons between Indonesia and the US. Much like the United States, each province here is so different from the others, yet there are strong ties that hold the country together. And the US even has a presidential candidate with
roots in Indonesia. Mark thanked the wonderful people of Belitung for being such gracious hosts. We ended the evening by having everyone link arms and sing Auld Lang Sine and then we had Joe on Rendezvous Cay shoot off a fireworks display. We asked cruisers to pitch in and help pay for the display, but as in everything, some did and some didn’t. So our pockets are a little emptier today, but we hope the people of Belitung felt our sincere desire to convey to them how much we appreciate their
wonderful welcome here.
As I write this, I can look out the ports and see boat after boat leaving the anchorage here. They rally functions here are officially over and most people are anxious to get on to Singapore. By the time we reach Singapore, we will all have spent three wonderful months in Indonesia. That’s all the time the government here will give you on a cruising permit and the weather is definitely starting to change. There are more and more storms as the rainy season is arriving. So it is time to head north,
spend a few days in Singapore, and then start the Malaysian and Thailand adventures. Before leaving here, however, we plan to snorkel the day away.
Day 158, Year 3: Arrival in Belitung
Date: Hari Selasa (Tuesday), Bulan Oktober 14, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Bright Sunshine with Some Puffy Clouds
Latitude: 02 degrees 33.225 minutes S
Longitude: 107 degrees 40.578 minutes E
Location: Belitung, Indonesia
This place is amazing. We had absolutely no idea what it was going to be like and we were delightfully surprised. There are rounded gray and white boulders piled on top of one another on one side of the anchorage and people who have been to the British Virgin Isles say it is just a mini-version of there. The snorkeling is evidently good among the rocks and the water is crystal clear. The beaches are white sand and the people of the island have gone all out to make cruisers feel welcome. We have heard from some cruisers that a million people live on this island. I have absolutely no idea if that is true, but those that were here on the weekend say that 30,000 locals came to the beach to greet cruisers and to enjoy the day. That’s an amazing number of people to come to this beach, but there are a number of shanty-type restaurants lining the shore to accommodate the weekend crowds. We are told the food is great. So good snorkeling, clear water, white sand beaches, beautiful scenery, great food, and cheap Bintang (beer)-what more could one ask for? The answer to that would be a calm anchorage, which evidently this one has been except for a few hours every afternoon. But since we arrived it has ramped up a notch and getting on and off the dinghy is a dicey affair and coming back to the boat from shore is a wet affair. I guess you can’t have everything. But I must add that the people here have vans waiting onshore to take us wherever we want to go and they refuse to charge us. Everyone has been giving the driver 50,000 Rupiah which is about $5.00US, but it is a donation. Unbelievable.
We arrived at 10 am this morning and had planned to spend a quiet day on the boat. We always plan that, but it never happens. No sooner had we arrived than we heard that there was a 12 noon trip to a nearby village. So off we went. The village was about 30 minutes away and it was called Balitung, instead of Belitung. It is Balitung because the people originally came from Bali. I can’t wait to get to the internet to find out why there are people from Bali here and who the other people here came from. But until then, we’ll just keep enjoying the place. The village was just like being back in Bali. Every home along the road had a little shrine out front. We went to the real temple and loads of people were there to greet us. They were dressed in their Hindu best and were so gracious. They seated us under a roofed area just outside the temple and then the show began. Women were constantly carrying offerings to the temple while all of the elementary and middle school-aged children performed beautiful Balinese dances for us accompanied by gamelan music. The young women dance, then the young men danced, then the players in ornately decorated animal costumes with fantastic masks performed. After the dances, we went into the temple to see all of the offerings that had been brought in today and to mingle with the people. All too soon it was time to head back to beach.
It was late afternoon when we returned and Mark was able to complete the check-out procedure for Indonesia. We then came back to Windbird to write and send this log and to turn on the anchor lights and then return to shore. There is a special Full Moon Festival tonight and we don’t want to miss that. And there are special performances planned for all day tomorrow and a farewell dinner tomorrow night. We had planned to leave the next day, but I think we will stay here for an extra day or two to snorkel and just enjoy the people. We made reservations today for a marina in Singapore for next Tuesday, so one way or another we will be in Singapore by then.
We are anxiously awaiting word that Justin and Jo have made it home safely, but that won’t be until our tomorrow morning. So I’ll have to report on that in tomorrow’s log.
Day 157, Year 3: Second Day of Passage to Belitung
Date: Hari Minggu (Monday), Bulan Oktober 13, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Overcast Morning; Clearing in the Afternoon
Latitude: 02 degrees 48.357 minutes S
Longitude: 109 degrees 03.891 minutes E
Location: On Passage from Borneo to Pulau Belitung, Indonesia
Miles to Go: 89
Sunshine here comes with a price. It is hot! But the cloudy skies of yesterday and early this morning have mostly cleared and we are still motor sailing under sunny skies. We have had no wind all day, but just a few minutes ago the wind switched from E to SE and is now a good 15 knots. Unfortunately it is directly behind us so we will need to pole out the headsail and go wing and wing or just keep motoring. Mark is down for his afternoon passage nap, so I have just put out the staysail and vanged
the main out to starboard. I will keep the motor going until he gets up and we can really adjust sails. When one person is asleep, the other is never to go out on deck and deal with sails alone. I cheated and went out to change the vang over, but I had on my inflatable and held on tight. The seas are totally flat, so I didn’t feel like I was taking much of a risk.
Last night was totally overcast but the near full-moon shone through the thin clouds overhead giving the effect of a floodlight. It was so much better than when it is pitch black and you can see nothing. There are unlit fishing boats in this part of the world, so having the light of the moon from here to Singapore will be a blessing. Last night there were little bubbles of light all along the horizon to port. We were obviously passing fertile fishing grounds and the lights were coming from fishing
boats out on the shoal we were passing. There were also loads of fishing vessels in our path and tugs pulling unlit barges, but the tugs do follow the light configuration demanded by international marine law. At least the ones we have seen so far do and for that we are thankful.
On this passage we are in VHF radio contact with a few other other boats. La Passarola and This Way Up of Australia, Nabob of Sweden, Oema of the UK, Galiano from New Zealand, and Cherokee of Canada are all on our same path. All of these boats except Nabob and This Way Up were on a klotok in the national park while we were there and we got to know them a little better. It is always comforting to know that friends are nearby on long passages. If something should go wrong, a radio call should bring
We spent part of the day looking forward to the next three months of sailing in Malaysia and Thailand. We are working out a rough schedule that we will continue to modify but we do now know that we plan to arrive in Singapore next Tuesday. When we reach Belitung and phone service, we will try to call Singapore marinas to make a reservation. It is cheaper if you reserve for ten days, so we will probably stay that long and then head up to the Malaysian coast to Langkawi.
I never really got a chance in the logs to describe the little town of Kumai. So before it is a long gone memory, I’ll reflect on that here. There were two very distinctive features about it. One was the four and five story concrete buildings that lined the waterfront. On the street side, these buildings were decorated to look like fancy houses, but on the sides and waterfront, they were painted a dark gray but instead of window, there were just rows of little holes. We couldn’t figure this
out, but finally we got an explanation. These big buildings are bird houses. Their purpose is for nesting and the nests are sold to China for bird’s nest soup. The town had one hard-packed dirt road along the waterfront and it was lined with mom and pop stores selling the stuff you would find in dollar stores back in the US. There was a morning veggie and fruit market along the street that closed in the afternoon, but it opened again in the evenings and had fresh fish to sell. The other dominant
feature of Kumai was the mosque. It was the most popular place in town and the prayers blared forth religiously four times a day and at 3:35 am. Even though we were anchored across the river from town, it was loud and clear. The mix of Malay Muslims and indigenous Dayak people was most interesting. It is certainly not a tourist destination and just untamed enough to be the perfect town from which to launch a trip to the national park to see the orangutans. But our fondest memory of our stay
in Kalimantan will certainly be the orangutans. Getting to know them was a highlight of our voyage to date.
Day 156, Year 3: First Day of Passage to Belitung
Date: Hari Minggu (Sunday), Bulan Oktober 12, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Totally Overcast with No Wind; Tropical Rain Storm Early
Latitude: 03 degrees 19.857 minutes S
Longitude: 110 degrees 55.872 minutes E
Location: On Passage from Borneo to Pulau Belitung, Indonesia
Miles to Go: 212
We have started our trek to Singapore. We will first travel almost 300 nautical miles to an island called Belitung. From there we do another two-day, two-night passage to Pulau Lingga off the east coast of Sumatra. It is a long day sail from there to Batam Island, close to Singapore. And from there we head into the Singapore Harbor. We had thought we would go around Singapore and anchor in the river between Singapore and Malaysia, but we’ve decided that a few days at a marina would give us a
little break before we start the trek up the Malaysian coast to Langkawi.
We woke to overcast skies this morning and soon after exiting the Kumai River we got hit with a good little rainstorm-lots of thunder, loads of rain, and 25-35 knot winds. This continued for an hour or so and completely soaked everything in the cockpit as it was coming from behind us. After the storm, the winds completely died, so we have been motoring since early afternoon. It is getting dark now and the clouds are so thick that it is hard to see the moon. There are dark clouds above, so I imagine
we will have more storms tonight. As we were eating dinner in the cockpit, a small land bird came to visit us. We are still fairly close to the Borneo coast, but when land birds try to perch on your boat, it usually means they are exhausted from fighting strong winds. I’ll be happy is this doesn’t prove to be true this time.
I’m having a tough time adjusting to life without Justin and Jo. Cruising is wonderful, but it is so hard to be so far away from family. Having them here was so special, but it will take a few days for me to adjust. In the meantime, we’ve got this yucky weather to keep us focused. I’m hoping for sunshine tomorrow.
Day 155, Year 3: Saying Goodbye to Justin and Jo
Date: Hari Sabtu (Saturday), Bulan Oktober 11, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: More Hot and Humid Equatorial Weather
Location: Kumai River, Kalimantan, Indonesia
It’s a mother’s dream to have her children come visit her in far-away exotic places, and it is the same mother’s nightmare when they leave. And today was a bit of a nightmare. We went to shore at 7 am and Harry’s Yacht Service had a car there for us in about two minutes. The airport is about thirty minutes from here and Justin and Jo’s flight was at 8:30 am, so we thought we had plenty of time. Here you just show up right before the flight-no two hours early for local Indonesian flights. But as we were leaving Kumai, we actually found ourselves in a traffic jam! I couldn’t believe it. There were huge cargo trucks heading in our direction and coming into Kumai and there were hundreds of people on the side of the road. We were near a mosque and Justin thinks the people had just finished a twenty-four hour reading of the Koran. Ten days after the end of Ramadan, Muslims are required to read through the whole Koran something like thirteen times. And we think the little community we
were traveling through was celebrating the successful completion of that task. Whatever was happening, it was certainly keeping us from getting to the airport. But finally we got there, got Justin and Jo checked in, and then we sat and talked. Indonesians airlines are notorious for their delays, cancellations, and problem aircraft, so we were all a little nervous about this. But we finally pried ourselves away and asked Justin to call us if there were any problems. Mark and I headed on to Pangkalan
Bun to go to the fresh food market and to see the riverfront and old palace. We have been in the town two other times, but never had a chance to see the sights. The riverfront was really interesting. From the main road we walked down a boardwalk to the river’s edge. People live in the mudflats and in houses on stilts all along the river. We walked along the boardwalk which took us past people’s homes and headed back to the riverfront market.
Mark and had decided to keep the driver that took us to the airport instead of riding the very crowded and dangerous bemos back to Kumai. After our ride back to Kumai yesterday where all four of us weren’t sure we were going to make it, we decided that paying a little more for a safe car was a good idea. I also wanted to have a car in case something went wrong at the airport. And it did. While we were shopping in the market, we got a call from Justin telling us that as he and Jo were stepping
aboard the plane, Jo noticed that fuel was pouring from the side. She was about to say something when someone more official noticed the problem. Some people had already boarded and they were evacuated quickly. No one was going to Java on this plane today. They returned to the terminal and found that the only other flight going to Central Java today was already booked solid, so they started investigating other options. When they called us, we called Harry who had booked the tickets and had him
start investigating options as well. We went back to our car and had the driver take us to the airport to see if we could be of any assistance there. When we arrived, Justin and Jo had figured out that there only hope of getting out of Kalimantan today was to fly to Jakarta in Java on a late afternoon flight and then fly to Bali from there late in the evening. This would mean not getting to see the Borobudur Buddhist temple in Central Java which was a huge disappointment, but at this point, just finding a safe way to Bali to connect with their flight back to the US seemed the prudent thing to do. It was even harder to say goodbye the second time, but we needed to get back to Kumai to check-out with the harbormaster in case things work out for Justin and Jo and we can leave in the morning. Before we left the airport, they had tickets for the flight to Java and we had called Harry to see if he could book tickets on the evening flight from Java to Bali. We got a call from Justin and Jo letting us know that they did arrive safely in Jakarta and saying that they will call later tonight when they arrive in Bali. They will then have two full days in Bali before flying out at midnight on our Monday. We’re just hoping that the plane from Jakarta to Bali is in good shape. There are lots of things for a mother to worry about, so Justin promised to call when they arrive in Bali late tonight. I’m sure things will be fine, but I will certainly be glad to get that phone call.
We think we are ready to leave Kumai at 5 am in the morning headed for Belitung. The interesting thing is that we have absolutely no information about this place. It is not in the Lonely Planet and none of our information from former Indonesia cruisers mentions it, but it is the place that Sail Indonesia has asked us to go to check-out of Indonesia. So we will sail two days and nights to get there, and from there we will head to Singapore. Of course, if something happens and Justin and Jo don’t make it to Bali tonight we might change our plans. We will be out of cell phone range once we leave here and I’m not sure I can continue on until I know they are safe in Bali.
I’m looking forward to arriving in Singapore where I think we will have good, fast internet. I have been missing our webcam connections with Sam and hope that we will be able to do this Singapore. We are having a wonderful time out here, but we do miss family so much. The past month with Justin and Jo was wonderful and now we look forward to seeing Heather, Jed, and Sam in Thailand in January.
Note: Just as I finished writing this log, Justin called to say that he and Jo are in Bali. They got an early flight from Java, so all is well. What a relief!