4th June 2014.
I woke up to a noise I hadn’t heard for quite some time, the sound of an engine with no exhaust but when I got off the couch and investigated the source I had a double blink. Was I in the land of Gullivers travels or perhaps H.R.Puffinstuff. These fishing boats are like gondolas with a very proud bow and squared off stern, almost like a Genie’s shoes. Nah can’t be so back to bed. Welcome back to Indonesia.
We headed out of Telaga Harbour at 0900 with Mo and K&K seeing us off, still drizzling but ok. Once out on the water we had a slight breeze and sea right on the nose so set the engines to 6kns and here we go. No need for any adjustments until 1600 when the wind had finally swung enough to be WNW at just on 10kns and we set the jib, shut down the port engine and all of a sudden we gain a knot. Sailed like that into the night until we had our first run in with ships. Out in all this water if two big ships are going to cross each other what are the chances of a 43 foot catamaran being in the middle of it, I would now say extremely good. I called them on the VHF as we had all their info on AIS and indeed they knew we were there but only from radar, into the Raymarine menu and find the AIS settings, sure enough we are in silent mode. Once we sorted it we got back in touch with the ship and he confirmed this for us. Trick for beginners like me, thats the second time. Nothing else was spotted for the rest of the night and we just motored on. Jen was Captain then I was Captain throughout the dark although not in regimented shifts. Just when you needed it.
Next day found us in the shipping channel of the Melaka Strait proper, we passed an oil and gas platform off to the south and ships were continuously approaching from the south but as we were going the same way it was all pretty easy. There was one big bugger that was just coming straight at us so on the blower and the Captain says back “Where are you”, I replied right in front of you, “Hold On”, ” OH Yeah see you, goodbye.” Jen and I cracked up and cracked a bottle of wine with lunch, one kilo of boiled endami beans sprinkled in Himalayan rock salt.
Our original course was to cross the shipping channel early and follow the Northern Sumatra coast but with the traffic coming head-on or stern-on it was pretty easy going so we stayed out there. Put the fishing lines out read some book, new Nelson DeMille, bit like his real old ones but too much going on to get into it. We pretty much motored with a good current helping us on our way all day long. The tides didn’t seem to make a huge difference. We had a large storm cloud to port and we seemed to be going the same direction and speed as it was raining 3 miles from us for most of the afternoon, we were in light SE breeze and checking it on the radar. It started to move towards us as the wind dropped to nothing, I was in two minds, do we keep going like this or do we cut across the skinny bit, the cloud looked like a bridge you could pass through to safety on the other side, by this time thunder and lightning are going off a mile from us, then the wind picked up to 20kns up our bum, to late that will learn me, then it was pissing down and we just sat inside hoping for no lightning. Within a couple of hours it was gone and off we motored again. We had a visitor, a tiny little bird that sat in the saloon as the storm hit. Wasn’t LFB. We skirted another storm out of which popped a fishing boat in the middle of nowhere.
Just as it was coming on dusk we had another ship versus catamaran episode, They were going in the same direction but to a slight angle to us, I gave him a call and his reply was “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” We just about pissed ourselves, I asked if he knew we were in front, “Of Course, we are having dinner”, I asked what are you having for dinner? Caught him by surprise, “Chicken, rice and beer goodbye”. I replied, have a safe journey but nothing heard, beer sounded like the go though, mine was empty. A few minutes later, either he scoffed his food or sculled his beer, he came back to us with “Have a safe journey too.” My reply ” Cheers Mate, Boomerang standing by” was met with silence.
As the night turned to early morning we were down to one motor doing 1500RPM and a current that kept us at 5+ kns, no wind and oily sea, the moon was a sliver and was gone early, not that you get to see it that often up here anyway. Jen gave me a good break and slept on the bed for the first time for this passage, excellent nap. Our only problem was our speed, it was hard to not look and you were back to 6 knots, no point getting there before the sun comes up, with one engine just about on idle we were still doing 5 knots and I wasn’t real keen on idling it for 6 hours but you do what you have got to do.
The lights of towns are seen to port and the glow of Banda Arche, about 15 miles out you start seeing the yellow flasher from Sabang. By now we were on 1000RPM to keep us straight and still doing 4.5 knots but the equation of time and speed was dead on, at 0630 I shut down the engine and had a sleep only to be awoken by one of the noises of Indo. Pretty lucky really we had drifted 2nm west and 1nm north.
We are now anchored in the Port of Sabang, there must be more officials per population here than anywhere on the planet, everyone has a uniform, we ended up with 7 onboard but it went smooth as silk, cost us 8 beers and 6 cokes. There is no dinghy jetty here so we tied up to a stern line of one of the fishing boats and climbed ashore. Mr Chan, a mate of Ray who is married to Dewi who we got to know in Bali had a couple of his mates, Fauzi and Mardi were there to greet us and Mardi offered us his motorbike for the afternoon which was unreal. We rode all the way to Iboih and the furtherest western tip of Indonesia, it was the most awesome road.There should be the Sabang GP for scooters, you climb mountains then drop down the other side all on perfectly smooth bitumen with tight sweeping bends.
The western end is called 0 Kilometer Indonesia and is quite impressive with high cliffs down to the Indian Ocean. Bit more impressive than the Keys. By the time we got back our bums were aching and the dinghy was on the rocks, spewing, I will never listen to anyone again. This is where it turns to shit though, Jen had baled the water out and I needed to get a little further out to drag it off a big rock when whatever was under my foot collapsed and then stinging pain, then straight into the dinghy and off. I trod on a sea urchin, one of the spines went through the side of my little toe and about 4 others in the toe, we hit the internet to google some advice and found it best to piss on it or boiling vinegar and water, Jen didn’t seem keen on the first option, bummer that sounded the go to me, so we went the boring option and will have to wait and see. We got the bad one with the help of a stanley knife and tweezers after soaking for an hour or so. Doesn’t hurt at all so with a bit of luck they will just fall out at some stage.
Sabang is hard to explain, there are really flash buildings, there is the main street not unlike Little India in Penang with stuff going on all over the show then you have the suburbs which are very like Bawean, Mosques everywhere. The streets are home to motorbikes of all ages and types, one I have never seen before must be from a Soviet type place. Heaps of young people everywhere. They seem like they all have jobs but they don’t get up real early, our appointment, first of the day with Customs is 1400. It has been raining most of the day so hopefully I make it.
Hows this for my first photo with the new SLR, slow learner rod, camera, I like it, this guy was working all day on the engine of his dads boat, with him of course, and the young fella was all smiles whenever I came to and fro through the fisherman’s beach area, we gave them a 7UP each, then this smile, pearler. Seeya