Diary of Passage. Bali to Singapore.
Finally, the day had come for us to leave filthy Serangan Harbour. It had been a stop of necessity, provisioning for the long leg up to Malaysia and clearing out of Indonesia.
It was not delightful, yet very practical. The mooring field was horribly dirty, trash and brown water surrounded us and I wondered what the meagre fish the men were catching on the floating pontoons would taste like?! We decided not to eat any,
At the first glimpse of light, we headed from the mooring field and out the channel to the slightly clearer water, leaving the stresses of prep and the filth behind.
Aa usual, Indonesia put it on for us. A lovely 3 knot current against us for pretty much the entire trip up the island. A sail that should have taken only 4 to 5 hours took almost an entire day. At least there was no waves, just very slow going.
We ended up pulling in to a small bay up near Amed for the night, as we did not want to sail overnight due to the FADS in the areas we were headed. This was going to a common theme for the passage as they are everywhere in the ocean here. Just like the trash…
We were all delighted to be back in clear water, where swimming was the done thing and water makers can be run.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on the beach and in the water.
The area was touristy, but still like what Bali used to be before it was ruined with the excesses of tourism and overindulgence that comes with a cheaper Asian country.
Locals were friendly and I ended up having a last braid of my hair to keep it out of the way and stop it falling all over the boat while on the passage. Kari, my beach hairdresser was chatty and sweet. We watched as her son and the other local kids played alongside ours in the breaking waves of the steep black sand beach.
Divers passed courses in the clear shallow water in front of us and the occasional touristy couple walked together along the shore to one of the many beach front warungs, local eating houses.
A very rolly night was spent in this bay. We were exposed to the NE swell that seemed to be rolling in so were glad to be up at 4am the next morning and heading out again, albeit by means of a super bright torch, shone by me while clipped and holding onto the Genoa at the front of the boat. Lighting the way between mooring balls and FADS, until the light started to break over the horizon, gently glowing the morning awake.
Another long day was spent on the water, although this one was not as slow and painful as the day before.
Knowing there were numerous FADS up ahead after a particular island, we chose to push through to get to an anchorage for the night so we could face the minefield in daylight.
109 miles was needed to be covered, which is a lot of distance for us in 14 or so hours.
We had the wind honking along, so we readied the new asymmetrical and pulled her out of her bag….to have the wind almost completely die on us!
It’s just become the word now when things go to the exact opposite for us in this country. Currents against us when they shouldn’t be. Indonesia. Wind and swells opposite to predicted directions. Indonesia. Officials telling you the wrong thing constantly. Indonesia. Things taking hours longer than they should… Indonesia. You get the idea!
We trucked along, motoring with both engines and sailing when we could in patches of breeze and managed to make the time up, mostly. Anchoring was done in the dark with the satellite imagery the captain had downloaded earlier and we settled in for one of the pre-made passage lasagnas and a good sleep.
Ha! Sleep again evaded us, in what might have possibly been the rockiest and most uncomfortable anchorage we have had since Vanuatu!
In the light of the morning we saw that in the darkness we had anchored where the 2 swells had been wrapping around the island we were behind. One of the reasons we generally do not anchor in the dark, but it had been a necessity and one we were certainly glad we had done, as we found out later in the day.
It was another early start. A small amount of school was managed before we lost internet. The asymmetrical was hoisted and was flying us along beautifully. It is slightly too small for our boat, but for the grand sum of 2 boxes of beers we were not too concerned.
It was making easy work of a downwind passage.
Then the FADS started showing themselves. These were not your usual FADS. Most FADS are like a teepee or house shaped sizable object, anchored in the water to attract the small fish, which in turn attract the big ones (if there are any left in this part of the world…. we are still dubious).
The ones in this area were 2 long and large pieces of bamboo, with a small stick and sometimes a flag or maybe a palm frond as a marker.
These things are literally impossible to spot. In a rolling swell they duck and hide beneath the foam of the waves and we found ourselves spending the day astounded at the fact they are legal and trying to avoid them all.
Factor in the fishing boats, who sometimes seem like they are headed for us until there is a last-minute change, and a boatload of smiling Indonesians fly by in their colorfully decorated, highly unstable looking fishing boats.
They motor to these FADS, then the 10 or 15 men on board hurriedly drop lines, casting in all directions near the FAD, hoping for anything they can get in this overfished ocean.
Even with the Captain and I both at the helm on lookout, we still end up with one directly in our path that we serve for at the last moment. They are a nightmare!
Noah and the Captain spend an hour playing spot the FAD and we all marveled at these bizarre floating devices.
Toward dusk they finally start to thin out and we have most and more time between sightings.
Thank goodness, as once night falls, with little moon until maybe 11pm tonight, we will be blind to what is coming. Radar does not show them as they are made of bamboo, no metal on them.
We truck on through the night, spending it alternating watches.
Hours slipping by like the waves and swell roaring and gliding under our boat, speeding us onwards.
It is a bizarre feeling, sailing at night. The stars are glowing and the sky is dark, little lights from fishing boats illuminate the horizon, and you fly along. Like driving a car down a highway with no lights on, knowing that there are things out there, but you are powerless to what lies ahead.
The gentle rocking of the boat, sliding down the waves while you forever move forward to a new destination.
I watch a shooting star falling through our atmosphere. Burning up into a golden streak and a red spark at its end. Thoughts become deep sitting in this complete darkness, with the entirety of the universe above you and nothing else to see.
The moon rises blood red. A startling sight as it slips above the low cloud. Its colour intense and beautiful, slowly changing to its normal yellow glow as its gently rises over the back of our path.
A sight I would never normally be seeing. The little pleasures of a night at sea are so rewarding.
The night passes safely for us, with ships to dodge, fishing boats to watch for and tugs with giant tows, deadly if taken the wrong side. Indonesia, the land vessels.
The day passes with the rolling eventuality of us moving forward. Miles are ticked off.
The morning flies as we get speeds of 10, 11 and even 12 knots with our little asymmetrical.
The waves curled up behind the stern of the boat and rolled under us with a regularity that was almost comforting with its constant-ness. The only regularity in the days filled with irregular changes and life while on passages and moving constantly.
Sleeps are had by me, Chae is struggling to sleep during the day still.
Nachos are created and a tub of guacamole is made and we feast with the sun streaming into the cockpit, while we roll and surf along.
The kids tolerate it all so well. Playing games, making pompoms (thanks Anna!) and watching TV.
School is attempted but my sea legs seem to have disappeared and so I feel ill just concentrating for a short period on something still. I envy Chae and his ability to read while at the helm. No such luck for me. I guess he could say the same for my ability to sleep during the days.
Soon enough, dinner is cooked, another pre-made lasagna to avoid the necessity of too much meal prep while tired and underway.
Emelia makes a salad and again we spend our meal together around the table. We talk of Libby’s birthday and if we will arrive in time, and if she will have to have a celebration and cake the day after maybe.
2 years in a row we are on a passage for her birthday. What are the chances!
All too soon it is my 4-hour watch. Darkness has fallen completely. The moon will not be up until at least midnight tonight, so it is just me and the illuminations on the horizon of fishing boats and the makers on the chart showing the big container ships with their AIS.
I watch one particularly well-lit fishing boat rock and roll its way toward me, glowing intensely while it cuts into the waves we are rolling against. I am so glad we are downwind sailing this time. Following the wind and waves instead of smashing into them for a change! It makes for such easy days and nights.
The watch passes seamlessly. Again, I get to watch the moon rise, this time behind a veil of cloud cover.
Soon, after the maneuvering around 3 massive tankers, it is time for me to head to bed. The relief is complete when I hit the pillow, but the noise of the whining of the prop (we need folding ones!!) and the surfing wave sounds bother me during the nights. Soon though, sleep is complete.
Chae wakes me 4 hours later for my morning watch, 5 am. An hour and a half before sunrise when the world is lit by an eerie half-light.
He had fun avoiding 3 tows. Huge tugs, who are lit up, thankfully, with an undetermined amount of tow line and a giant vessel, unlit apart from a tiny flashing light at the bow.
Getting in between the tug and the vessel being towed would be disastrous for us. A high-tension line would likely sever our boat in half like a cheese slicer. Not a situation that sounds appealing. Tows are freaky and I was glad they came past on his watch.
Soon the kids are awake. Breakfast is had slowly and I settle them into some schoolwork, very reluctantly.
The movie to schoolwork ratio has been high so far, with Captain and I both tired during the days and trying to sleep, they have had free reign of the laptops.
Today, there is a deal. Schoolwork equals screen time. Less complaining follows.
A sleepy yet speedy day passes. Winds are steady and the asymmetrical flies like a dream, powering us along easily.
I make a cake for Libby’s birthday tomorrow. It actually turns out fantastic, despite the rolling motion in the oven, swaying the batter side to side in the pan!
This year will be the year I won’t stuff up all the cakes on the boat!! Last year was a disappointing cake year.
I am tired, and while dinner cooks I try to sleep before night falls but it does not come easy.
We eat together instead, in the swaying cockpit, while the sun dips below the horizon ahead of us.
This night passes again quickly. Less brightly lit squid boats and tankers are around tonight. The watches are easy.
I listen to podcasts while sitting in the helm. Bundled up in my sailing jacket and blanket. For the first time in ages, I am cold!
It is fast. The wind is steady. We fly.
The lights in the children’s rooms come on early today. A little face pops up at the door and greets me with a huge smile! My birthday baby. The delight that little face brings is indescribable.
She waits patiently for the Captain to wake up before presents and happy celebrations can begin!
Her brother and sister help the time pass with games and drawing and cuddles and jokes.
Then a miracle happens! Libby wants sushi for lunch but we have no fish left on board. The fishing here is dire and we have caught nothing in months.
I decide I have nothing to lose by putting a line out, otherwise it is going to be vegetable sushi. Not quite the same….
Within 20 mins I hear the line run! Are my ears deceiving me? We are flying along at nearly 9 knots and I can’t stop the boat with this giant sail up so the fish is just cranked in!
A small tuna! I cannot believe the luck! Ask and you shall be given they say, and truly I was!
Pancakes are made. This year I am not sea sick while making them in rough seas.
We eat together. Kids making full advantage of our sleepiness and going for gold on the maple syrup while we rub our weary eyes and pretend to not see.
It is a real celebratory feeling on board. Not only for the birthday but that we are tantalizingly close to our destination.
We skirt the island of Belitung for the morning, heading up the coast.
The scenery here is other worldly.
Giant boulders have tumbled from the land into the sea, mottled and glinting in the bright sunshine, like huge eggs, laid by a sea monster.
The children dream of climbing them and the Captain watches closely for the random reef and rocks that lay submerged.
We discuss what would be worse to hit, a giant boulder or a razor-sharp reef… neither, we agree!
A pit stop is made for lunch. We pull in to an area shielded by the tumbled boulders, out of the wind and still for the first time in 3 days.
The sail is doused finally. It has flown continuously since we left. We cannot believe how easy the trip has been with it. The best boxes of beers ever bought!
With the anchor set, we devour the board of sushi! It is as good as it looks! The birthday girl is delighted!
The kids and I drop the dinghy for a quick explore on shore of the boulders and a swim at the beach.
It is very touristy. Many warungs line the back of the beach and stacks of inflatable floats dot the sand.
We have a sweet drink as a treat at a little tiki bar looking place. The guys are happy and glad we chose their spot. The enthusiastically shake the kids lime squash. It is served with smiles and the obligatory photos are taken, the ‘bules’ at their stand is a big deal!
The drink is sickeningly sweet and the kids smile with thanks to the guys at the stall but we take it back to the dinghy, to ‘drink at the boat’!! Maybe the fish will like it better than us!
The sand is like powder; the rocks are rough and glinting with their quartz like crystals sparkling in the bright sunshine.
The water is refreshing and warm. We play games and explore. We go to the back of the beach and rocks, where less people are to find our own spots.
But the trash. Oh. The trash is everywhere. In between the rocks. In the water where the waves lap the shore. Stacked up against ancient rocks are piles of half burnt trash.
It is tragic and depressing. It is sad and an all too familiar sight in this country.
My heart breaks. How can we clean up this planet when the people who are meant to look after these tourist destinations just don’t care?
What can you do? Education is needed, but it doesn’t seem to get to where it would benefit the most.
The Captain calls from the boat. We need to get around the corner before the sun starts to get too low and we cannot see the reefs and rocks. They are plentiful here.
The dinghy is raised and we rinse the salt from our happy heads.
A short trip takes us past more stunning rocks piles, these ones like someone has scratched them with claws. I’ve never seen such sights.
The anchor is dropped behind a tiny island of rock and glowing beach. Excitement to explore it tomorrow is rising with the kids, talk of what they will play and rocks they will climb takes them thru to dinner time. Libby’s final meal request of the day, tomato and vege soup!
We sit for dinner while watching the fishing and squid boats depart for their evening of work.
The soup is devoured. It reminds us of home, of winter and chilly evenings. We talk of how we do not miss the cold!
Birthday cake follows. And this time I did not stuff it up!
It is not my usual efforts of home, but then I don’t have the equipment, and it would probably all melt in this heat. I’m lucky the fridge has space for it pre-dinner!!
The cake is delightful. The smiles are priceless. The effort is all worth it.
With full bellies and dishes done, we head for bed. A welcome treat of a whole night of uninterrupted sleep is before the Captain and I.
What a treat, alright!
A few days are spent sleeping and relaxing in life again in Belitung. It was striking and beautiful, with many small rocky outcrops and tiny islands to explore. We could have stayed weeks here and were sad out time was short.
After a few days of rest and exploring in Belitung, dawn approached and we pulled up the anchor in the darkness of 5am again.
The second part of the leg to Malaysia lay before us.
We had a loosely plotted course of stops to avoid too much night sailing and we set off in the dark, me at the front with the high beam torch again to spot for fishing boats on their return from their night out working.
The passage passed in a generally relaxed and uneventful way. There were ships to navigate around, fishing vessels that wanted to pass in front of us and cut the distance short! Nets and other weird floating things in the ocean made for watchful eyes from the Captain and I.
We settled into the rhythm of the days, stopping at night to avoid some of the above obstructions, aside from the first night.
We chose to do one overnight to make up miles on the first day, the winds were good and it seemed silly to stop so a course was set for the 210-mile trip, of about 30 hours.
The anchorages we stopped in on this upper part were mostly disappointing to say the least. There was no fishing, there are no fish here! There was no swimming! The water clarity and cleanliness after Belitung was poor.
Aside from one pretty fishing village we enjoyed stopping by. Stilted houses over the water near the island and giant pontoons out further in the water, with 1 or 2 longboats tied to them.
This was a stop where we enjoyed the last of the light as we anchored in the shallow water behind the island. Waving to the fishermen who were surprised to see us as we cruised past them. Greetings called and grins from them seeing the children wave to them and call greetings in Bahasa.
The closer we got to the Singapore Straits the greater the traffic!
We had an eventful last night before crossing the channel. What was a fine anchorage on arrival turned to a rocking rollercoaster of a spot. So much so that we decided to move at around midnight. Two bays later we finally found respite, with much needed sleep able to happen before the challenging day we had ahead.
It had been a pleasant, albeit a long, passage up to this point.
It was sad to say goodbye finally to Indonesia. We had loved our times there, aside from the endless visa debacles!
The experiences we had had and the places we had visited and people met will stay with us forever.
Indonesia is such a varied and friendly country, a place of extremes, from wild beauty and exceptional marine life, to bustling cities and sadly, the endless rubbish problems.
Selamat Datang, Indonesia. We will always remember you!