Saturday, 10 December 2016

Final weeks in Indonesia

Final Weeks in Indonesia  18-31 October 2016

Parai Beach 18 – 20 October

We arrived at 10am in the morning after our night sail, looking forward to spending a few days at anchor outside this upmarket resort. We anchored and one hour later we left as the anchorage was exposed to the SE trade winds and rolling waves were coming into the anchorage. Apart from the boat rolling violently so sleeping would be impossible, we were not going to leave the boat in an anchorage that was not safe. We sailed thirty miles further north and sheltered in the lee of the land making for a comfortable and safe anchorage. We missed out on all the activities at Parai beach but we had enough of poor anchorages.

It was a relaxing couple of days although the water was not clear so no swimming. Just relaxing, reading and BBQs off the back of the boat. Just what we needed.

Penuba 21 -23 October

Paradoxically as we travelled further north towards the equator (we were less than 100 miles south at this point) the weather got cooler. Cloudy skies reduced the heat during the day but at night we started getting more thunder and lightning. We sailed over night to Penuba and managed to avoid going through the storms using our radar to track them. We could see the lightening all around us which does not make for relaxed sailing.

Children loved the smash the egg game
Penuba is a small fishing village and they pulled out all the stops to entertain us with a day of traditional games. Three legged races, smash the egg on someone’s face (and hope that it is one of the hard boiled eggs) and dancing with a tennis ball balanced between two people. It had the feel of an old village fete and the locals seemed to really be enjoying themselves. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

Three fast three legged race
Start of the tennis ball dancing
Catherine and her partner won the tennis ball dancing competition after dancing through two songs without dropping the ball. I managed three lines of a song before dropping it – I blame the mayor who was obviously not a good partner.  We did not take part in the three legged race- the locals were far too good and it was on concrete and ran at hell of a pace.

After an enjoyable afternoon we had dinner in a local café. Twenty people for dinner in a café that probably served no more than five people in a whole evening. They did a great job, clearly overwhelmed but did not give up. We were then treated to an evening of music, with sofas set out for the rally under an awning.

Retrieving the coins from the flour
After some misunderstanding, the locals staged another morning of games for us the next day. I competed with two locals and another member of our rally to eat half a packet of dry crackers a boiled egg in the fastest time. No competition against the locals. The final game we were not invited to join in and the reason became obvious. It involved taking out coins from to a fruit covered in some sticky black substance using just your mouth which meant your face ended up covered with the stuff. 

A messy game

That was messy but the next bit was that all the coins where then put in a tray of flour and the teams had to retrieve them again using just their mouths. The flour and the sticky black substance made one hell of a mess of the competitors!

Once again we were sad to leave the locals but we had to carry on to our next destination.

Benan 25 – 27 October

Houses on stilts over the water
The day trip up to Benan was uneventful, another day motoring. The island itself is a tourist island with mainly Chinese people coming for weekends from Singapore and staying in the eco-lodges. You could see the difference tourism makes to an island – the infrastructure was in better shape and it had a wealthier feel to it – relative to the other islands although many people still lived in traditional houses on stilts over the sea.

Baby turtle bred in captivity
A rescued turtle
One of the main events planned was to release turtles back into the sea that had been either bred there or rescued. We must have released about 30 turtles back into the wild, some very small and some that were massive. Who knows how many will survive but it is good to see conservation of the sea in Indonesia.

Climbing the greasy pole
The villagers turn out in force
The island is very small and a couple of hours walking around pretty much  had the place covered. In the afternoon they staged some games on the jetty which attracted all of the villagers. Young boys tried to climb the greasy pole put up in the middle of the harbour (none succeeded) and there were boat races which we were invited to join in. There were two to each boat and our role was to and beat the drum while a local woman stood up and rowed. They insisted that we wore life jackets while the woman standing up rowing did not have one!

Catherine getting with the beat
The final stages of the race


The final dinner was held in the school yard and once again the food was excellent. We were treated with traditional entertainment and dancing with all of us invited to join in. I have got past any inhibitions in my dancing as everyone now knows I cannot dance and it has become a source of much amusement.

Equator Party 24 October

Neptune and his helper
The baptisim
We left Benan with just twenty miles to go to the equator and we found a good anchorage in a bay that did not exist on the charts,
almost exactly on the equator. In fact the monument on the island marking the equator was just behind us on the beach where we held the party. For the people crossing the equator for the first time, there was an initiation ceremony performed by a Norwegian dressed up at as Neptune. Each of the newbies had to show that they were worthy people and were then baptised with cold water.

We all brought dishes to share on the beach and Mick from Wishful Thinking brought a huge Kingfish he had caught on route – the first fish anyone had caught for months.  Everyone was in high spirits and we finished off the evening with fireworks that would not have been out of place in an organised display.  Wishful Thinking had found them through an illicit source in Bali - they are illegal in Indonesia. I am sure that the locals enjoyed watching the fireworks for miles around.

It was a great party and a good celebration of being back in the northern hemisphere – seemed like home again.

Tanjung Pinang 27 – 31 October.

Our last stop in Indonesia! We anchored in the river outside the city and it was the dirtiest river we had come across – rubbish floating up and down, plastic bags in the water. Just awful and lots of people had their anchors fouled by the rubbish, needing to keep re-anchor until they found a clean spot.

We were guests of the city to watch the events
The city was hosting a festival while we were there and we were invited as guests to watch the events. After two hours of watching a series of events, I had to go for a walk as falling asleep in front of all the other invited guests would not have been good form. Catherine however was really enjoying the performances and stayed. It was all well staged but just a little too long.

Lunch at the local restaurant
We passed a few days in the city with our friends from the rally, having lunch at the local restaurant where the locals ate (very good) and wandering around town.

Final speeches
The final night was a big dinner for three rallies – ours, the other (rival) Indonesian rally and a rally of motor boats from Singapore. We arrived 30 minutes late for the dinner (with most of the people from our rally who had been given the wrong time) in the middle of the speeches. That was unfortunate since I was supposed to be giving one of the speeches! However, I managed to tag on at the end and thank the hosts for their hospitality and present a flag signed by all the rally participants – the traditional gift for the hosts. The mayor seemed genuinely pleased and we had the normal round of photos of the two of us holding up the flag.

The night continued with a parade of brightly lit boats cruising along the beach which were beautifully decorated parading along the beach.  In all some 180 boats passed by and it was confirmed that it had achieved a world record for the biggest parade of ships in the Guinness Book of Records. This was all part of the efforts to attract tourists to the city, especially from Singapore which is just 50 miles further north.

We retired back to the hotel where we left our dinghies for drinks with all the other people from our rally. The skies blackened and at the first sound of thunder we all took to our dinghies and back to our boats.  Just as well as the wind came up to thirty five knots with a series of huge thunderstorms.

Another Bad Night

Mayhem ensued for the next four hours. Some twenty of the motor boats from Singapore all dragged and once a boat starts dragging they take off at a rate of knots – helped by the strong tide and thirty knot winds. And the motor boats were not the only ones that dragged as some of our rally also dragged (but thankfully not us this time). Everyone was on the deck of their boats and we ran our engine so that we could dodge boats dragging towards us. As the tide changed, all the boats reacted differently, and we had to motor out of the way of two boats, anchored far away from us but we all started swinging to a central point. It as bizarre as boats were lying at every different angle to the wind with seemingly no pattern.

To make matters worse, the motor boats that had dragged were motoring around the anchorage trying to find somewhere to anchor and several times we had boats a few metres away that were going to anchor right next to us and other boats. There was a lot of shouting.  And when politely asking people not to anchor so close did not work, many boats resorted to the shorted version consisting of two words. That always seemed to work.

At 3am the weather had calmed down and we re-anchored away from all the other boats, just so we could sleep without worrying. One of the worse nights we had had for a long time and we were all itching to leave but had to wait a further day for our port clearances before heading off to Malaysia.

Everyone was concerned about crossing the straits to Singapore, the busiest shipping lane in the world. It is an amazing sight with a regular flow of huge ships crossing the shipping lanes which are just 1.5 miles wide in places with ships going in both directions. However, we all crossed with relative ease and with great relief. We carried on around to the north of Singapore to Puteri Harbour in Malaysia.

We could now look forward to visiting Singapore before starting up the coast of Malaysia.

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