Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blog updates

I've made the most of finally having access to reasonably fast Internet access to update the map.

I've also added more photos, including some of the Orangutans up the Kamai river. See the blog entry here. A preview:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy endings

After a couple of false starts, I'm legally in Malaysia and anchored in the same spot as yesterday. The newly painted courtesy flag is fluttering from the spreaders - from a distance it's not a bad rendition of the complex Malaysian colours.

Tomorrow I'm off across the causeway to explore Singapore and search out some parts for the boat.

Impenetrable causeways

It's only 6 miles across the Singapore Strait, and a surprisingly enjoyable hour was spent weaving my across the busy shipping lanes. No rest though for the radar detector - it was permanently detecting. In a disarming contrast with the bustling man made scenery around me, I was briefly joined by two dolphins in the middle of strait; I've never seen that off Dover.

A dramatic thunder storm welcomed me to the Johore Strait, allowing the engine half an hour rest and me a brief break from hand-steering, while the sails and wind-vane took the strain. The Johore Strait separates Singapore Island from mainland Malaysia. My plan was to work my way round the island to an anchorage off Johore Bahru from where I'd check-into Malaysia and be a bus ride away from Singapore.

My route took me past heavy industry closely followed by packed beaches; high-rise to precarious homes built on bamboo stilts in the shallows of the channel. Each twist of the channel revealed unexpected sights.
Eventually I emerged from the final turn in the channel. Ahead of me should have been my destination, instead was a road linking Malaysia to Singapore. As I approach I scanned the horizon for a break in the causeway. Nothing, it was impassable. Disconcerted I studded the chart and pilot book. I was sure I'd read about a bridge with over 25m clearance. Belated I realised that the bridge was on the west side of the island, in-front of me was an impenetrable causeway. Disaster. As fuel was expensive in the marina in Nonsga point, I'd only bought enough to get me to the anchorage. If the causeway would let me through I only had a couple of miles left, instead I was faced with a 60 mile circumnavigation of Singapore, with dusk rapidly approaching and no fuel. I decided to put my fate in the hands of the officials. Close by was a dock with a Malaysian customs ship. Instead of laughing at my stupidity as I'd anticipated, they invited me along side and asked for the jerry cans. I was driven by one of the crew to the local Shell station and told I could anchor off the shore for the night. Phew...

I'd just dropped the anchor when I spotted another yacht heading in my direction. It was Peter and Margaret on Sandpiper who I'd first met in Panama and seen more recently in Darwin. Feeling slightly better that another yacht had made the same mistake, I rowed over to see them. No mistakes on Sandpiper, they'd deliberately chosen to anchor here as it was ideally placed for trips into Singapore, and the customs dock provided a secure place to leave the dinghy. Perhaps I've accidentally stumbled across a perfect anchorage for my stay around Singapore. Now all I have to do is check-in...

27/10 17:30: N1° 27.5' E103° 46.4'

Monday, October 27, 2008

Opposite Singapore

Mishap free I completed the short trip to Nongsa Point marina yesterday morning. I even had a following wind helping me conserve my meagre fuel reserves.

What an odd place. A marina resort with premium prices, miles from the nearest habitation. I've developed an aversion to marinas. For one thing, Kika suddenly grows as I try to manoeuvre her into a pontoon, but more importantly why pay to stay in a car park when you can be surrounded by nature for free on the anchor. That said, I still enjoy a good daydream in a long warm shower and the staff are all very friendly, even apologetic when asking the exorbitant prices for fuel and laundry. I came here to check-out, perhaps more research would have revealed cheaper less sterile options.

Yesterday Singapore was shrouded in mist, today I can see high-rise across the Strait. It looks strangely appealing after so long away from "civilisation". I'm planning to anchor on the Malaysian side north of Singapore Island and I've just realised the complexity of the Malaysian flag - quite a shock after the elegant simplicity of the Indonesian colours. Time to get creative with the paint brushes....

26/10, 11.30: Nongsa Point marina: N01° 11.8' E104° 05.8'

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mangrove island anchorage

Wow what a fabulous cruising ground. Calm protected water with little or no swell, dotted with islands with gentle sloping beaches, with a huge variety of bays, passages and inlets giving an almost infinite variety of anchorages. Now if only someone could organise consistent wind it would be perfect...

This morning I made my way from another stunning anchorage between mangrove covered islands, waving to a couple of early fishermen in their beautiful wooden boats. A bizarre long, thin fish (pipe fish?) jumped out and skimmed along the surface of the water using its tail to keep airborne, until almost out of sight. I drifted past a couple of small villages whose stilt huts overhung the water, imagining the scene before me might have been unchanged for hundreds of years. However Indonesia is a land of contrasts and as soon as I was in open water I was passed by two ultra modern hydrofoil ferries racing north.
Squid for breakfast this morning, which I exchanged for some clothes Ina accidently left onboard - I'm sure she'd approve.

Slowly and surely I'm making my way northwards towards Singapore. Tomorrow, assuming no mishaps, I'll end up in Nongsa Point marina opposite Singapore Island where I'll check-out, refuel and prepare myself for the crossing of allegedly the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Don't the Dover Straits also claim the same title and I'm sure other waterways as well? We'll see...

16:00, 25/10: N00 58.01 E104 10.94'

Friday, October 24, 2008

Coup in the skies

Think the gods must have read yesterday's account and decided the bad publicity would harm their image. What a contrast. The day began with a fine breeze from behind over a calm sea with no rain. OK I still had to contend with an adverse tide but what do you expect from the gods - miracles??

A few hours later there seemed to be some kind of coup with the hardliners taking over and arranging a head-wind. However it felt more of a token gesture as the hardline element couldn't cajole the clouds into drenching me or agitate the sea into a fury.

I'm happy I decided to day-hop up the coast, with little moon light it would be almost impossible to avoid the frequent unlit fishing platforms and fishing buoys - it's hard enough during the day.The chart tells me I've reached the South China Sea - not sure how that happened. It also warns me I'm in a "FORMER MINED AREA" ... "mines could still present a hazard for vessels anchoring, fishing or engaged in submarine or seabed operations".

Difficult call, you either run into a fishing platform at night or risk an explosion when you drop anchor for a sleep.

16:00, 24/10, anchorage between Senimpan and Baru islands: N00deg 27.13' E104deg24.7'

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Back in the northern hemisphere

My final destination in Indonesia will be Nongsa Point marina, on the northern tip of Indonesia, directly opposite Singapore island. This morning I took stock of fuel reserves. The upshot is I've 100 miles left to go to Nongsa Point, but not enough fuel to motor all the way. No problem you'd think, I can sail. However the winds have been so irregular relying them seems like betting on an Icelandic banking investment.

Hoping for a decent breeze I set off at 6 this morning into a flat sea, but to my delight the wind quickly picked up. Now any wind is better than no wind, but today brought a head wind, forcing me to tack my way north and making me feel like I'd doubly earned every mile gained towards Singapore.

As I slowly closed on the equator, I felt a little like an actor in a story from Greek mythology. The gods seemed to be guarding the gateway to the northern hemisphere, throwing in an adverse current in addition to the head-winds. They also played physiological tricks with me by changing the weather. From having very localised but intense storms, today was more like a stormy day off Southend, with grey overcast skies, driving rain and agitated seas - enough to drive anyone to despair.

Just as I'd crossed the line, they put a unmarked reef in my way requiring some swift cockpit activity to avoid as I tacked back into the southern hemisphere. So I crossed the equator just after midday the first time, then returned to the southern hemisphere 5 minutes later and finally recrossed at 12.20.
The gods had one last trick. I thought they'd grudgingly let me through, but were clearly having none of it. While I was occupied checking the charts and deciding where to anchor for the night, the gods changed the wind, and the windvane obediently tracked the change. I emerged into the cockpit only to discover us 30seconds away from disaster. Directly ahead was a rock. This wasn't a smooth, ocean polished rock; it was black with razor shark teeth, ready to rip the bottom out of the boat. It was almost like a Hollywood director's idea of what a ship wrecking rock should look like; though that wouldn't have been very consoling.
Once clear, I checked the chart. There was no excuse - I'd failed to spot a charted isolated rock. On paper it looked insignificant and harmless, nothing like the boat breaker I'd so nearly made contact with.

Now I've crossed the equator it's downhill from here...

Some northern/southern hemisphere trivia:
  • 67% of the world's landmass is the northern hemisphere
  • 88% of the world's population lives in the northern hemisphere
  • southern hemisphere comprises 19% land; 81% sea
  • northern hemisphere comprises 39% land; 61% sea
  • air masses from the northern and southern hemispheres don't significantly mix; northern hemisphere air pollution doesn't reach the southern hemisphere.

23/10 off Kentar island: N00° 03.12' E104° 45.59'E

SW Pulau Lingga

It was almost exactly a hundred miles to the next anchorage. Too much for a day sail in light winds, but hopefully my last overnight sail in Indonesia. At dawn I awoke to find a decent wind blowing into the anchorage and decided to make sail while the going was good. The wind lasted until mid-day, followed by calms and thunder-storm induced wind from the usual variety of directions, keeping me busy as ever try to make the most of the breeze and keep the boat heading in more or less the planned direction.Unlike the last passage, there were few dangers to avoid; a straight line would keep me clear of the few charted rocks and islands. As for the uncharted dangers, I put my trust in the cartographers as there's little chance to see anything at night - the moon isn't making an appearance until after midnight and with clouds covering the sky it's almost perfectly dark. Only the occasional distant blinding flash of lightning illuminates the night.

I caught another wahoo. Less of a monster, more single-handed sailor size this time. That said it was big enough to destroy my hook, still anything for fresh fish.

By sunset the wind completely died but left a slight chop, meaning a stronger wind was required to stop the sails impotently flapping. There was little traffic, a few fishing boats, but with the radar detector silent, I decided it was the perfect chance to grab some sleep. I furled the genoa, secured the main, tied-off the helm and slept well for a few hours while Kika gently rolled on the swell.

Just before dawn the thunderstorms closed on our position, giving a decent breeze. Soon we were speeding towards land at 6 knots, with dolphins briefly joining to play in the bow wave.

Even with limited visibility you know you're approaching land as you start to see rubbish floating in the sea - some of it potentially hazardous like large barnacle encrusted planks or trunks as well as the inevitable plastic bags and polystyrene containers. Today a flip-flop floated past with two resident crabs, looking like refugees making a bid for freedom on their raft.

Just after midday I dropped anchor off the SW tip of Pulau Lingga, in a sandy bay beneath the lighthouse. Great to arrive with time to swim and relax before sunset.

SW tip of Pulau Lingga, 22/10 12.40: S00deg 17.88' E104deg 59.93E

Monday, October 20, 2008

North coast of Bangka

I should have easily made it to tonight's anchorage on the north coast of Bangka, but the regular thunderstorms I've started to rely on for decent wind, didn't arrive until well into the afternoon. I spent the morning alternating sailing attempts with motoring. The result was that as I turned west along the north coast of the island, I realised I still had 12 miles to go with only an hour and a half of light left at best. Even the most reckless banker wouldn't bet on an 8 knot average with half a knot current against us.

While bracing myself for another sleep-deprived night at sea, I noticed an island no more than 5 miles ahead. It looked as though I should be able to anchor in its lee. I went down to study the charts surprised that I hadn't spotted it earlier. Turned out that both the electronic chart and the Admiralty chart of Bangka showed no island and no clue that there might be an anchorage here. That said both charts are littered with "Inadequate Survey" warnings, but missing an island seems a little slack. Undeterred, but more cautiously I pressed on towards the uncharted island.

As I drew near, some poles emerged from behind the island. The binoculars revealed the poles to be masts with ten yachts anchored in an uncharted bay sheltered by the uncharted island. As there are so many yachts here I presume the anchorage must appear in 101 Indonesian anchorages. I've belatedly discovered that my copy only extends to anchorage no 73. Anyway it makes for a more exciting life this way.

I dropped anchor just after the sunset, relieved and looking forward to an undisturbed sleep.

North coast of Bangka: S1deg 30.29' E105deg 52.7'

Overdosing on omega 3

As I headed towards the anchorage in the south east of Billiton the wind started to die. I was only 10 miles away. Should I use the engine or continue with the purity of the trip so far and sail in? I opted to continue sailing at 2 knots - less than walking pace. I should have been more pragmatic. With engine assistance I could have avoided the drenching in the now familiar morning thunderstorm. I'd seen the dark clouds massing behind me, but chose to ignore them, instead focusing on the welcome sight of the islands ahead, the prospect of a calm anchorage and the chance to sleep. The rain brought another problem, the islands vanished as my visibility was reduced to a small rain-swept circle around the boat. This forced me to slow-down further to wait for the storm to pass. Fortunately the storm's boundaries are well defined; one moment you're in a tropical downpour and next blue skies. With normal visibility restored, I motored into the islands and towards the waypoint I'd pre-entered, passing an outer island and what I thought looked like a perfect anchorage in its lee. Instead I pressed on toward my chosen anchorage and 15 minutes later found myself attempting to negotiate some shallows, anxiously watching as the depth gauge plummeted; 5m, 2m, 1.5m, 1.1m, 0.8m, 0.2m, bump, aground. Cursing myself for not trusting my instincts, I turned around and anchored at the spot I'd spied half an hour before.

The anchorage was perfect. Swell-free, with good-holding and a view of a perfect tropical island, complete with the sounds of cicadas emanating from the dense interior. Sadly the only thing on my mind was sleep.

Waking up in the late afternoon I tried and failed to summon the energy required to explore ashore. The prospect of launching the dinghy and fiddling with the newly-temperamental outboard, felt like too much work, especially without the help and enthusiasm of another. Instead I studied charts of the area ahead of me, trying to pick-out as many anchorages as possible en-route to minimise the number of sleep-impaired night sails I'll have to undertake.

The next morning, refreshed, I headed up the coast of Belitung towards an anchorage in the north of the next island, Bangka. It was 210 miles, which given the calm conditions would mean at least two nights at sea. However the course took me along the shore of Belitung and then up the coast of Bangka, which given the frequency of shallows and rocks I figured wouldn't be used by large shipping. I'd much rather deal with the well-charted danger of rocks, wreaks or shallows than the random approach of large freighters.

So far the plan has worked well, with good progress the first day up the coast of Belitung, followed by a calm night close to shore and away from the shipping. The following day I crossed a shipping lane between Belitung and Bangka, altering course twice for ships closing on me a little too close for comfort. Then last night propelled by a gentle breeze I made slow but steady progress up the coast of Bangka again clear of major shipping.

With true dedication to the cause I've finished off the last of the wahoo. The fishing line is out again and my diet returned to its usual variety.

The days follow a similar pattern. Little wind first thing, followed by strong winds from various directions caused by thunderstorms passing to the north, south and directly overhead.,The proximity of hazards requires more vigilance than normal and attention to the course. With the wind-vane in charge of steering, a wind-shift means I'm suddenly heading in completely the wrong direction, possibly towards some danger I thought I'd safely passed. The result is for half the day there's little rest from foredeck work, sail trimming and navigation.
That said the sailing can be quite exhilarating. Suddenly we're speeding along at 7knots in-front of a storm across a flat sea - sometimes even with a free shower.

The VHF has started to come alive with English voices. A couple of yachts passed me yesterday and we briefly chatted on the radio as they motored off into the distance. I've been trying to minimise the amount of motoring, as without the electronic steering I need to be at the helm all the time the engine is running. It seems easier to let the wind-vane steer, even if we're only making 2 knots while I can cook, catch-up on some sleep or even write a blog entry.

From time to time I forget I don't have crew. A couple of times I've only just managed to stop myself calling into the cabin when there's something exciting to see on the horizon. I've just chatted with another boat, but briefly thought I shouldn't as it would wake the sleeping watch. Before talking I glanced over towards the sleeping form of the crew, only to have reality rudely impose itself as the space is currently occupied by a pile of Malaysian charts I dug out yesterday.

Anchorage off Belitung: S3deg 03.7' E108deg 17.7'
Position @ 8.00am (GMT +8) 20/10/2008: S1deg 43.4' E106deg 30.8'

Friday, October 17, 2008

A good catch

There's no rest for a single-handed sailor in the Java sea. Like the day before, yesterday morning I became a small plaything blown in all directions by the thunderstorms to the north and south of me.In my effort to keep sailing in vaguely the planned direction I gybed four times and put the pole out, then brought it back down six times. Exhausting and wet - how many wind shifts can you have in an hour? Fortunately the wind settled down by late afternoon, leaving me only to contend with threading my way through the local fishing fleet off the banks I passed just to the south of.

Highlight of the day was the catch of the day - a metre long wahoo. My first ever wahoo. I'm 20 miles off the anchorage on Palau Belitung, hope there are some other boats in the anchorage as I'll struggle to finish it myself, despite valiant efforts at breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, mid-afternoon snack, mid-night feast ... etc
Looking forward to a rest before I tackle the shipping further north...

Position @ 7.00 (17/10/2008) S3deg 08.9' E108deg 37.8'

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Onwards towards Singapore

After an amazing couple of days with the orangutans in the rainforest, it's time to move on again. More of the orangutans in a subsequent post.

It's been a busy day, starting at 7am to catch the falling tide, followed by much activity trying to make the most of the light and variable winds. One moment the winds turns more to the east, requiring the pole, the next to the south, forcing me to stow the pole, then a sudden thunder storm requires a reef in the sails, only for the storm to finish as quickly as it began leaving no wind and the sails flapping uselessly in the roll of the swell. This cycle repeated itself until late this afternoon when the wind settled down to the SSE giving 5 knots on a comfortable beam-reach, though there are ominous dark clouds on the horizon threatening to disrupt my relaxation. I'm skirting west along the coast of Kalimatan, twenty miles south of the land, but in less than 15m of water, on passage to Pulau Belitung ~ 250 miles. Fortunately there's a full moon blazing through the scattered clouds, illuminating fishing boats and buoys ahead.

Despite my boat-maintenance efforts in Darwin and Bali, it looks like I'll have to spend time in Singapore trying to get on-top of a new set of jobs and some old returning 'friends':
  • The wind-generator has just blown apart.
  • After the outboard's dunking in Rincha, it's become temperamental, requiring a deft balance of throttle and choke to avoid it stalling.
  • I've recently noticed a scattering of rivet heads around the bottom of the mast. Concerned I ventured skywards, but all appeared well with the rigging. Finally I spotted the kicking-strap bracket at the foot of the mast gamely hanging on with only three out of a possible sixteen rivets remaining.
  • After my fixes to the electronic self-steering, it's stopped working again. This time the problem seems to be electronic rather than mechanical.
  • My laptop which came back to life after the soaking I gave it in Lovina now refuses to power-up.
  • My creak elimination project has yet to show any tangible results for the time and epoxy invested.
  • The pressure gauge on my dive regulator is permanently stuck at empty.
  • Water has penetrated the polorisation layer of my sunglasses.
  • Phew....I need to lie down
Positively, the mosquito nets I had made up in Lovina have proved invaluable.

It can feel rewarding keeping on-top of maintenance or even occasionally managing to make improvements but when three or more major items require attention simultaneously it quickly can become overwhelming. Plus it's frustrating when each fix or "improvement" appears to require redoing 2-3 times before it's finally bedded down and working reliably. Perhaps though that says more about the quality of my workmanship then the anything else...

Position @ 19.00 S3deg 15.6' E111deg 11.1'

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Visiting the relatives

Soon after dropping anchor and starting to contemplate the evening meal my musings were interrupted with a call of "hallo mister" from outside. It was Harry from "Harry's Yacht Services", testing my interest in his tours. Negotiations were swift and a deal was quickly completed. The following day I'd be picked up at 8am, a guard would be deposited to watch over Kika, while I'd head off in search of the orangutans in the company of Rosy and Michael from Jeremiah.

Sure enough 7.30 the next morning, while still packing for the two day trip, a call of "Mr Nick" announced the arrival of my guard and a little later our forest transport arrived. The boat was a little over 40ft, narrow with a worryingly sharp bow and built on two levels. The three of us lived on the upper "deck", where we were looked after at various times by the captain, a guide, and a ship's boy. The designations seemed arbitrary as they all shared the steering of the boat, cooking and administering to us tourists - what a treat.

We headed back down the river before turning off into a tributary. Quickly the ferns lining the river gave way to more diverse thicker jungle.We started seeing large dragon flies, herons, then suddenly our first monkeys appeared, nonchalantly watching us from their perch in the trees.All the more unexpected as I feared the loud thumps from the unrefined single cylinder Chinese diesel would scare away all wildlife - but I guess they must be used to it. Our solitary progress was occasionally interrupted by a roar of a speed boat; straight from a game show prize catalogue.
After a few hours the river started to narrow, bringing the damp slightly mouldy smell of the forest to us and soon after we arrived at Camp Leakey.
Our guide explained that the camps were "research and rehabilitation institutes" for orangutans not tourist spectaculars. Sure enough there wasn't an orangutan gift shop in sight, though fortunately the camp included a helpful information centre. The rehabilitated orangutans are offered food once a day. If none turn up that's a good sign - as they've foraged for themselves. Fortunately for our visit they seemed happy to take meal hand-outs from their relatives. As we approached the feeding station, we were followed, or rather overtaken by one large determined male, speeding towards his meal.

Once the ranger placed the inevitable bananas on the platform, the orangutans arrived in all directions.
Some raced along the forest floor, others arrived via the forest canopy announcing their imminent arrival by the swaying and creaking of branches as they made their slow, purposeful progress towards the food. They seemed oblivious to our presence, allowing us to watch their antics up close.
In many ways they seemed so similar to us, the way in which they carried and tended to their young, the way in which they seemed to sit or more often hang around and contemplate life.It was as though they were a different race or tribe, not a different species and with some work we'd be able to converse with them and have them teach us how to effortlessly hang from and climb trees.
It wasn't easy to drag ourselves away from our privileged view of such amazing creatures but eventually we returned to the boat and headed back down the river. En route we briefly saw the Pinocchio-like noses attached to a group of proboscis monkeys, before arriving at a small bay in the river where we tied the boat between two trees for the night. As we tried to sleep under a mosquito net on a lumpy Teletubbies mattress with Tinky Winky, Laa Laa, Dipsi and Po keeping us company, the forest awoke. Our dreams were accompanied by high pitched calls of cicadas, croaking frogs, whining mosquitos and the bizarre, clanger-like, extra terrestrial call of the gibbons as well as many other sounds whose origin remains unknown.The following day we visited a couple of other camps on the way back to the main river. After Camp Leakey the other stations were less impressive for sheer quantity of orangutans, but once hooked seeing any semi-wild orangutans was a treat.We returned as the sun-set with birds darting over the river, fish jumping from the still water, with a camera full of pictures, a head full of memories and a desire to learn more about these incredible creatures.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kumai River

The anchorage just behind the headland proved to be well protected and just after 1am I gratefully crawled into bed. Normally I'm up with the sun. Not this morning. I slept soundly until just after 9am. I almost leapt out of bed to check the course and look out for shipping before I remembered where I was.

After a lazy start, enjoying savouring breakfast in a calm anchorage, I remembered I still had 45 miles to go up the river to Kumai. Adding to the challenge my various pilot guides, charts and software gave little indication if the tide in the river would be favourable or not.

Memories of east coast sailing returned as I sailed through muddy waters crossing banks with less than 2m under the keel leading to the entrance to the river. Once in the broad river I was in luck, the tide was with me and the depths increased - although the mud remained. I made it to Kumai with time to spare, dropping anchor a little before 6pm.

Anchorage behind headland: S3deg21.9' E111deg46.4'
Kumai: S2deg44.5' E111deg44.0'

Friday, October 10, 2008

A rare treat

It always seems to take a few days to reacclimatize to the rhythm of passage-making. Yesterday I was back on form after a couple of lethargic days. It also helped that the thunder storm reduced the humidity and the wind shifted more to the NE and blew consistently, giving the rare treat of a beam-reach. No rolling. No creaks. No bangs from lockers as items make a bid for freedom. The roly swells of the first day and the temperamental wind of the second became a distant memory as we made almost silent progress across the slight sea. The perfect day finished with a spectacular sunset over one of the islands stranded in the middle of the Java Sea.

The single-handed sailing is going well, but for the lack of conversation. Ideally we'd have a radio net, but, for whatever reason, the one we tried to organise before setting off hasn't worked out. I've taken to talking back to the BBC world service. No response so far.

At dusk the wind shifted more to the SE, so we're back on a rock and roll run. It's continued in the same direction today, so I haven't had to alter the sails, just the occasional click on the self-steering to change the course one way or the other by 6 degrees.

It's humid again today. I'm learning to make the most of 6-9am and 4.30-6.30pm. The rest of the day I've accepted that I'll be sticky; salt water showers only provide momentary relief and I'm rationing myself to two short fresh water showers a day.

A couple of highlights today. First was fifteen or so dolphins playing around the bow wave for a good half an hour. The second was the first fish I've hooked. A decent sized bull mahi-mahi - my favourite. Unfortunately I haven't had much opportunity to perfect single-handed fish-drill and lost him just as I bought him over the rail. Still the prospect of fresh-fish again is tantalizing enough.

I've got just under fifty miles to go to my waypoint at the entrance to the river. However I'm planning to see if it's calm enough to tuck in behind the headland and have a decent night's sleep before tackling the river tomorrow. I still find it quite eerie approaching an unlit coast. According to my charts, I'm fourteen miles off the coast, but there's no sign of habitation ahead, or even a coast line. I can just see something on the radar at its maximum range of 16 miles. The sailing is the easy part; it's the landfall that provides the real challenge.

Position @ 19.15 10th Oct S3deg48.9' E111deg47.8'

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Saunas and storms

During the day I threaded my way between the islands of Surabaya. I'd considered stopping here if I needed a rest, but as all was going well I've decided to push on for Kumai. Dolphins joined me as I entered the shallow waters (less than 100m) of the Java Sea. There's also an increase in fishing boats, so I'd hoped for some action from squidy - nothing. Just a couple of false alarms from hooked flotsam.
I spent the day hiding from the sun and instead found myself in a sauna AND I've still 6 degrees to go to the equator. Somehow it seemed appropriate to be hearing news of financial melt-down as I dripped with sweat.

At dusk the weather suddenly changed. Like the first night I was treated to a blinding electrical storm, but this time the storm clouds were overhead. We've seen rapid changes in the weather before, but this one was exceptional. One moment I was rolling along under full-main and poled-out genoa the next the wind switched direction and dramatically increased. Still it was refreshing having cold rain drilling into my skin with an occasional warm wave dousing me as I struggled to reef the main at the mast. A perfect antidote to the lethargy of the day.

Sadly after a couple of exhilarating hours, the wind died completely. Rather than spending the night motoring I decided to wait for the wind, resulting in an overnight total of half a mile in the wrong direction.

Position @ 9.00am 9/10/2008 S6deg 19.2' E113deg27.8'
Distance to go: 240

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Crewless in Lovina

After waiting in Lovina over the weekend for Margreet to retrieve her passport from the authorities, on Monday we discovered that it would be at least another three days. There was also an added complication of an impending visit from her sister, which meant we'd struggle to arrive in Singapore in time. Reluctantly we decided that it wasn't going to work.

However my unanticipated extra time in Lovina was put to good use, once I discovered good quality affordable seamstresses ashore. Together we constructed side screens for the bimini and mosquito nets for the hatches - I found the materials (Sunbrella, grommets, thread and webbing) and provided the patterns, while they did the work... It's been on the job list since Panama where I acquired a roll of Sunbrella material and a sewing-machine, but the tropical heat and nocturnal mosquitoes have caused some re-prioritization of the list. Now I just need to improve the windscoop and use the remaining material in a deck-awning - probably just in time for my homecoming...

Still passport-less, but with lots of enticing food from Carrefort in Denpassar, Margreet headed back to Lovina to wish me well. Now I've another excuse to catch-up with Antares so we can share the "Brat Rollmops" - (sardine-herring fillets in vinegar) and other Dutch delicacies now filling my fridge.

With a fruitless last minute crew-marketing bitz in Lovina and feeling that I have stuck around Bali for long enough, I decided on Tuesday to head-off single-handed. As I was making final course checks, I knocked a bottle of water over the computer which promptly died. Now I know that this wouldn't have delayed Chichester, Knox-Johnson or Moitessier or other heroic single-handed sailors in whose wake I presume to follow, but they didn't have a ravenous blog expecting frequent updates. Fortunately by mid-day the tropical climate had worked its magic on my sunbathing disassembled laptop and it sprang back into life, enabling me to raise anchor and head NW for the 380 miles to Kumai river in Kalimantan.

There were ominous dark clouds over the Balinese mountains as I left, but apart from an impressive electrical storm during the night, the wind has been light and variable - consistent with most of our Indonesian sailing to-date. Fortunately there's been enough wind to sail, although I'm not expecting to set any records on this passage - the speed frequently hovers around 2-3 knots. Still good to have a gentle introduction to my first multiple day single-handed passage.

Position @ 9.00am 8/10/2008 S7deg 02' E114deg22'
Distance to go: 300

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tourism Balinese style

Despite spending a couple of weeks in Bali, I'm still struggling to adjust to the rampant tourism here. There's almost a voyeuristic feeling of being slightly apart, observing but only participating at the fringes of the game played by locals and visitors.

That said yachts are not immune and on my return to Lovina the "Sail Indonesia" rally had arrived - package tourism for yachts. Prices had been hiked accordingly - I even had to pay for landing the dinghy on the beach.

After touring the local workshops in Lovina, searching for someone to machine a new part for the self-steering, the consensus was that I should head down to Denpasar (the capital) where I'd find the required skills. Fortunately Brendan and Lisa were keen for a sail so the following weekend we headed back round the island into Serangan. It was great comparing notes with Brendan about his trip and even be challenged to justify some of the sailing routines I've developed - it's too easy to become complacent, there's always more to learn... Still not sure about his genoa polling system though...

Arriving in Serangan I was greeting by Sten and Danika on Mata'irea.It also turned out that Astrid, Jasper & Marijn on Antares, Bo from Njord and the boys on Khulula were in Benoa, 15mins away by bike. Some of us decided to hit the night-life capital of Bali - Kuta. No more observing from sidelines as we threw ourselves into the energetic night-life with the enthusiasm of sailors who have been at sea for too long. We also combined the evening with a marketing campaign to search for my new crew. The Khulula boys took the task to heart, using my fliers as an excuse to start conversations with whoever they thought would be suitable crew for me - I wasn't complaining. The evening took a day to recover from, and nul point on the crewing front. Danika has a more sordid write-up on their website.

Typically I'd timed my arrival just before the start of the Ramadan holiday, however it didn't make much difference, the local workshops couldn't fabricate the required worm-gear; I'd have to wait till Singapore apparently. Still as ever once you start explaining the problem a solution presents itself. I managed to pack-out the motor to use the unworn region of the drive - almost as good as new.Serangan was great for finding those hard to locate essential items and with Brendan and Lisa's help I found gelatine (for cheese cake), tahini paste (for hummus) as well as more mundane items such as switches, screw-drivers, butane gas refill and a dentist.

Once replenished I escaped from the expense of the capital to clearer water in Lembongan. What a bizarre place. Lembongan is a day-tripper destination for those staying around Kuta. As I arrived I had dolphins swimming with me while I was circled by Japanese tourists sitting astride towed inflatable bananas.Come 4pm the day-trippers vanish leaving a peaceful island with villagers in conical hats, painstakingly gathering seaweed growing in "pens" close to shore.In Lembongan the two extremes coexisted, but there seems to be little or no cross-over. Perhaps what I saw in Lembongan is a microcosm for life on the main island. For tourists in Bali there's a Disney-land of temples and beaches, and a student paradise of cheap booze and partying, while the traditional Balinese continue making offerings around their statues, playing the gamelan at their festivals and planting rice on the terraces, seemingly oblivious to the tourist antics around them.Finally one of my crew wanted posters resulted in Margreet from Holland deciding to join me to Singapore, where I'll be looking for more crew. You wouldn't have thought it would be so difficult to find crew - perhaps I'm just too choosy.

We sailed from Lembongan back to Lovina where Margreet left for Seminyak to pick up her passport.

I'm looking forward to heading off again. This time to some small islands on-route to the orangutans in Kalimantan then onwards to Singapore....


Serangan, 21th - 30th Sept: S8°43.1 E115°14.3'
Lembongan, 30th Sept-2nd Oct: S8°40.7' E115°26.3'
Lovina beach anchorage, 3rd-6th Oct: S8°09.61' E115°01.30'