Day 166, Year 3: Ready to Enter Singapore Tomorrow

Day 166, Year 3: Ready to Enter Singapore Tomorrow
Date: Hari Rabu (Wednesday), Bulan Oktober 22, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Same Old, Same Old–Overcast; Some Wind; HOT
Latitude: 01 degrees 12.229 minutes N
Longitude: 104 degrees 04.842 minutes E
Location: Pulau Nongsa on N Coast of Batam Island, Indonesia

We are anchored behind a tiny little island on the north coast of Batam looking across the strait to the high rises of Singapore. This is our last official night in Indonesian waters and tomorrow we enter Singapore. Shirena is here with us and they have decided to go to the same marina where we are heading for a few days before heading to Raffles Marina on the west side of Singapore Island. You can get boat work done there, but it is quite far from downtown. So they will enjoy downtown and Sentosa
Island and then head around to get boat work done. A number of boats headed into Sebana Cove Marina in Malaysia on the east side of Singapore today and many more will be following us into Singapore in the next few days. All boats have left Belitung except for two, Kayitsiz III of Turkey and Sahula of Australia. We heard on the net that Oskan on Kayitsiz is battling Typhoid Fever. The folks on Sahulu have stayed there with him and they hope he is strong enough to leave tomorrow. Oskan is a single-hander
and we will be thinking of him as he makes his way north. He is a strong-willed young man and hopefully he will beat this obstacle and arrive in Singapore healthy and happy in a few days.

Where is the sunshine when you need it? This afternoon as we were traveling north through Selat Rial between Batam and Bintan Islands. The rains came and we had very low visibility. Looking out for other boats in this busy little strait was already challenging with a mix of cargo ships and the tiny wooden canoes of local Indonesian fishermen. These little boats were hardly visible in good light, so the afternoon got more and more interesting. It is still raining, so we are hopeful that by tomorrow
morning, the rains will go away and we will have good visibility when crossing over the Singapore Strait.

I spent part of the day today writing a letter to family and friends who don’t read our log. I wanted to summarize our Indonesian experience and share it. So I am copying that letter here for those of you who do read these logs. Traveling through Indonesia has been a wonderful experience, so here’s how we summarized it.

Dear Family and Friends,

We are sitting in our last anchorage in Indonesia and we feel compelled to write to our closest friends and family and share our thoughts as we near the end of one part of the voyage of Windbird. Since we have not been in contact with some of you for quite some time, we’ll start by backing up a bit. Windbird arrived in Australia at the end of the 2007 cruising season and we flew home for five months. We stayed with our daughter and son-in-law, Heather and Jed, and that beautiful grandbaby Sam.
Somehow Sam kept all four of us so busy that we hardly did anything while home but take care of him. So if we didn’t get to talk to or see you while home, please forgive us. We flew to Florida to visit with Mark’s family and to Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit with our son Justin and his wife before heading back to Australia. We flew into Brisbane on May 3rd, took a train to Bundaberg, and sailed away one week later. It took us two months to reach Darwin on Australia’s northern coast and then
on July 26 we left Darwin for Kupang, West Timor in Indonesia.

We have been traveling through this amazing country of islands for almost three months now and the experiences have been spectacular. From a lakeside village in West Timor where we were welcomed by hundreds of people . . . to the villages where women weave the beautiful ikat and songket material . . . to komodo dragons . . . to the cries of smiling children calling, “Mister, mister”. . . to the Muslim calls to prayer . . . to the indescribable beauty of Bali’s Hindu people . . . to the orangutans
of Borneo. Indonesia is all of this and more. The people of Indonesia, no matter where we went, no matter the religion and beliefs of the people, are the true treasure of this country. And I saw my very first Clownfish here. Nemo lives in the Kroko Atoll! We’ve eaten enough nasi goreng (fried rice) to last a lifetime and we have seen so much beauty that it will take a while for our senses to come back to normal. We feel so fortunate to have been able to share a month of the Indonesia adventure
with our son Justin and his wife Jo. It was wonderful to have them with us in Bali and on to Borneo. We will never forget the kindness extended by our first Indonesian friend, Cece, and all of the various guides that have made it possible for us to see inland Indonesia. We would never have attempted this without traveling with the Sail Indonesia Rally. There were trying times, but the experiences the rally organization has afforded have much outweighed the negative aspects. It has truly been
an unbelievable three months. And we can’t forget to mention the two months we spent traveling up the east coast of Australia and across the top to Darwin. That seems like a lifetime ago. It has been a go, go, go sailing season and its not over yet.

Tomorrow we must wake up from our Indonesian dream and enter the Singapore harbor, the busiest in the world. We will stay for a week in a marina that is much too fancy for us, but it is in the right location. We will then sail around to the north side of Singapore and check into Malaysia. We will spend only three weeks traveling up the coast of Malaysia, stopping somewhere along the way to do a little inland exploring, and then we will stop in Langkawi to do a little boat work. Langkawi is an
island just off the coast of Malaysia on the Thailand border. We will be there until mid-December when friends, Kevin and Claire, come to join us for our trip to Phuket, Thailand and to the Similan Islands northwest of Phuket. We will have Christmas with Kevin and Claire somewhere in Thailand and when they leave on New Year’s Day, we will get ready for our daughter Heather, our son-in-law Jed, and our grandson Sam to visit us. Sam will celebrate his second birthday in Thailand and you know that
is going to be one joyous celebration.

We do not know yet where the next leg of our journey will take us. We might leave Thailand the end of January and head for the Red Sea. If we do that, we will be in Turkey by April. Or we might leave Thailand in late January and head for South Africa. If we do that, we will arrive in Cape Town by December and then make the 6,000 mile journey to Trinidad be back in the Caribbean (and maybe back in the US) before the hurricane season in 2010. Or we might spend another year in Southeast Asia.
If we do that, we will come home and try to work for a few months to help refill the cruising kitty. We will make a decision by December and will let you know then of our intentions. For now, we just hope to make it safely into and out of Singapore and continue our journey.

We would love to hear from you and hear about the adventures in your lives. We love cruising, but we really miss family and friends from back home. So please take a few minutes to send us an email letting us know how you are doing. And please make sure you erase this message if you hit return as we are bandwidth-challenged out here. No need to send extra text.

Love, Peace, and Happiness,

Judy and Mark
S/V Windbird

Day 165, Year 3: Slowly Moving North to Singapore

Day 165, Year 3: Slowly Moving North to Singapore
Date: Hari Selasa (Tuesday), Bulan Oktober 21, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Overcast; Some Wind; HOT
Latitude: 00 degrees 52.242 minutes N
Longitude: 104 degrees 14.845 minutes E
Location: Sembulang, Pulau Remdag, Indonesia

We had hoped to stay at Mesanak today, but very early in the morning a wicked roll developed. So we decided to move on. We had heard about two possible anchorages on the net, so we headed for the one that was about 28 nautical miles from Mesanak. We are there, but other boats went further north. We are thinking that we will move another thirteen miles north tomorrow and make our final approach to Singapore the next day. On our way here it became obvious that we are no longer in the Java Sea.
We have entered the South China Sea and the traffic and floating trash are increasing. There are floating logs and little islands of seaweed, pieces of wood, plastic bottles, Styrofoam pieces, and plastic bags. Lovely! We had out our fishing line and caught two of these little “islands” but no fish today. There are real little islands everywhere but the presence of very large cargo ships seems to be the attention getter here. We also have the sound of jets overhead. This is something we haven’t
heard for quite some time. But we are anchored behind an island where there is what looks like a small village. The fishing boats here are still traditional with no motors. As I am writing this, I stopped to get a video of a man returning to shore in an outrigger with a small sail. There is no wind, so he was also paddling. It is a simple but beautiful way of life.

So we are leaving the beauty of Indonesia behind and getting ready for the Singapore experience. It will be short, but I am sure it will be interesting and busy. I’m a little worried about Windbird “fitting in” in a flashy super-yacht marina, but we’ll try to clean her up a bit before we make our grand entrance.

Day 164, Year 3: Fireworks on the Equator

Day 164, Year 3: Fireworks on the Equator
Date: Hari Senin (Monday), Bulan Oktober 20, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Overcast; No Wind; HOT
Latitude: 00 degrees 25.970 minutes N
Longitude: 104 degrees 31.415 minutes E
Location: Pulau Mesanak, Indonesia

It feels so strange to be back in northern latitudes after being “down south” for so long. This equator crossing ended up to be totally different from our first. The night got more and more overcast, so none of the moonlight could shine through. And then the light show started. At first we just had heat lightening, but as crossing time neared, the torrential rains came down and then we had lightening accompanied by thunder. It was 3:30 am and wet and miserable, so our only celebration was to
throw 105 pennies in the sea as an offering to Neptune and enjoying the “fireworks” in the sky.. I then went back to sleep as it was Mark’s watch. When I got up for my early morning watch, the rains had stopped, but it remained overcast throughout the day. Earlier in the evening, we had changed our destination. We were going to arrive at Pulau Kentar during the wee hours of the morning in the dark, so we went on about 35 miles to Pulau Mesanak. We arrived here mid-day and I actually slept most
the afternoon while Mark read.

Mark spent part of his afternoon fashioning a Singapore courtesy flag. We have one that we bought from Landfall Navigation, but it doesn’t appear to be the right flag. Marianne and Kaye on Nabob are not going into Singapore, so they gave us their Singapore flag that was not quite right either. But between all we had, Mark came up with what we think is the correct flag. We had sundowners on Shirena and discussed our various ways of getting from here to Singapore. We think we will spend tomorrow
here and then head north to another anchorage before our final assault on the Singapore harbor. But tomorrow is another day and who knows what decisions will be made. Bottom line is that we enter Singapore no later than Friday.

Day 163, Year 3: Second Day of Passage to Pulau Kentar

Day 163, Year 3: Second Day of Passage to Pulau Kentar
Date: Hari Minggu (Sunday), Bulan Oktober 19, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Sunny, Cloudy, Rainy, Sunny; Winds Non-existent
Air Temperature: 92 degrees F Mid-day
Water Temperature: 84 degrees F
Latitude: 00 degrees 43.064 minutes S
Longitude: 105 degrees 41.606 minutes E
Location: On Passage from Pulau Belitung to Pulau Kentar, Indonesia
Miles to Go: 74.5

We’re getting closer. We will cross the equator for the second time on this voyage early in the morning. Shortly after I sent yesterday’s log, the wind left us and we have been motoring on almost glassy seas since then. Conditions here are very similar to the conditions when we crossed the equator going from north to south just before arrival in Galapagos. It is HOT, it is humid, the seas are glassy, and there is no wind. For the first crossing we had a full moon. We missed the timing a bit
on this one and will have the light of a moon that was full just five days ago. And last night, I almost helped us repeat something that we would never want to repeat. On the third day of our seven day passage from Panama to the Galapagos, we got caught in a fishing net. Last night, Mark had a very quiet watch from 7 to 10 pm. He pointed out the lights of about three sailboats out in front of us and then went to bed. Well, those three lights ended up to be fishing boats, and just as was the
case off the coast of Columbia, these fishing boats came with green and red flashing buoys indicating fishing nets. I went as far off course as I dared to avoid going through the boats, but I kept getting pushed further and further to the east. I thought I was fine and then all of a sudden one of the flashing red and green lights seemed to be headed straight toward Windbird. I adjusted course by 10 degrees, then 10 more degrees, and passed the flashing buoy with only a few feet to spare. The
red and green flashing light was on a stick about three feet high. I could see the bobbers from the net and took the engine out of gear “just in case.” Windbird was fine, but it gave me quite a scare and I’m still unsure how it all happened. I guess perspective can be a very strange thing and I sure called that one wrong. Since the light was down close to the water, it must have been much closer to Windbird than I thought. It seemed to be zooming toward me, but I guess I was zooming toward it.
Tonight I will just go miles off course if I need to in order to feel safe.

Today we also had another scare. The sun was shining and all was well, except that we had no wind. I was actually doing another laundry. As I was hanging the clothes, I looked up and saw a black cloud with what looked like a tornado coming down from it to the water. That is a water spout and if you get in its way, you can be in big trouble. Water spouts are just tornados over water and can pack huge winds. We dropped the main and changed course to try and avoid it. It seemed fairly stationary
as we watched, and then it started to dissipate, build again, dissipate, and finally lose its strength. Then another smaller one formed a little closer to us, but that one didn’t last long. Later in the afternoon we got a good little rain and that helped cool things down. It was 92 degrees F in the middle of the day and humidity must be about the same. It was HOT. But after the rain, the temperature dropped to about 88 degrees and that feels cool.

We’re not sure what we need to do to celebrate our second equator crossing, but since it will be early in the morning and we will reach out destination shortly afterward, I have a feeling the celebrating will happen in the anchorage. Yesterday after I sent the log, we caught a small Spanish mackerel, so we will grill that and celebrate with other cruisers in the anchorage. I’m sure a dip in the sea will also be part of the celebration.

Day 162, Year 3: First Day of Passage to Pulau Kentar

Day 162, Year 3: First Day of Passage to Pulau Kentar
Date: Hari Sabtu (Saturday), Bulan Oktober 18, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Overcast; Winds E 10-15
Latitude: 02 degrees 05.899 minutes S
Longitude: 107 degrees 13.684 minutes E
Location: On Passage from Pulau Belitung to Pulau Kentar, Indonesia
Miles to Go: 198

We are sailing! That is amazing as we are approaching the equator and there is usually no wind here. But we have a nice 10-15 knot breeze from the East which puts us somewhere between a broad reach and downwind. The seas have a nice gentle roll and we are sailing along very comfortably. I guess this is our reward for delaying our departure one day allowing us to not start a passage on a Friday-bad luck for sailors. I can see five boats ahead of us, one to our starboard, and one just behind us,
so we have company for our trip north. We doubt that these winds will stay with us through the night, but it has been a lovely beginning to this passage.

We left Boston three years ago today and have traveled 22,230 miles. And we are not yet halfway around the world. So we have miles to go, but right now we’ll just focus on the miles to go to Singapore. By this time next week we will be in the One15 Marina enjoying Singapore city life.

Our stops between here and Singapore are all on what we think are uninhabited islands. Therefore, we think we have seen the last of wonderful Indonesian life. We skipped the cruiser barbeque on the beach last night because of the on and off drizzles and had dinner on Windbird. Then around 7 pm we went to shore to join in little tribute to Dewi and Raymond Lesmana. They are the Sail Indonesia coordinators and Aki of Japan had bought them a handheld VHF radio so they can communicate with cruisers
by radio in future years. The celebration was at our favorite little restaurant on the beach and we said our farewells to good friends. Some we might see in Singapore but we are going to be heading up the Malaysian coast almost three weeks ahead of everyone else, so the next time we might see friends is in Phuket in December. Tory and Piet Hein of Double Dutch (South Africa) are the only cruisers we know of that are going to be on the same time schedule, so we do hope to see them along the way
in Malaysia. So we are slowly breaking our ties to Sail Indonesia and heading into the next phase of the voyage of Windbird.

Day 161, Year 3: We’re Still Here

Day 161, Year 3: We’re Still Here
Date: Hari Jumat (Friday), Bulan Oktober 17, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny AM; Rain in the Afternoon
Location: Tanjung Kelayang, Belitung, Indonesia

Well, it was just too hard to say goodbye, so we didn’t. We stayed here, but we will be leaving in the morning. There are a number of boats leaving in the morning doing a two day, two night passage to just north of the equator, so we will travel with them. In this part of the world, it is good to have other boats nearby in case you run into trouble. There are loads of fishing platforms and fishing long lines and more than a few floating logs. So it is good to have friends nearby if you should
need help.

Since we decided to stay, I launched into a laundry frenzy. I have not done laundry since we returned from the Kumai river trip, so we had heaps. But after getting just one load hung out on the line, we heard that a bus was headed to the big town about 25 kilometers from here, so I left a laundry load to soak and headed to town. We teemed up with Marianne and Kaye of Nabob. They had been in town before and they let us follow them around until we got our bearings. We spent most of our time in
the internet cafĂ© trying to look up information on Singapore and checking the ever dwindling bank account. The internet was sooooo slow that we could not even check our land-based gmail account for messages or see a video that Heather had posted on Picasa for us. It was a video of Sam riding his rocking “dragon” that we got him for Christmas and we wanted so badly to see it. But I guess we’ll just have to wait until we get to Singapore.

We had lunch in our favorite little restaurant on the beach when we returned and then came out to Windbird just in time to get the first load of dry laundry off the lines before the rains came. It continued to rain all afternoon, so all of the laundry that was soaking while we went to town is now dripping in the covered cockpit.

When we leave here tomorrow morning we will sail/motor about 237 nautical miles to Kentar Island. From there we make three day-hops to get us to Singapore. As we get closer it is important to travel in daylight as the traffic will be heavier and logs floating in the water seem to increase. If all goes well we will be in Singapore on Thursday or Friday of next week. You cannot come into Singapore on the weekend, so one way or another we will be there by Friday, October 24. Monday the 27th is
our 34th wedding anniversary and I think that is the perfect excuse to go to the very exclusive Raffles Hotel in Singapore and have a Singapore Sling in the place where that drink was invented. I think it costs about $25 a drink, so we’ll just have to have only one and go out to the Singapore food stalls for dinner.