Saturday, October 20, 2012

The convoy of Thousand Islands

...or...Flotilla Cruise from Singapore to Jakarta and back.

The Raffles Marina team in Singapore, put forward the idea of a flotilla cruise to Jakarta, with sponsorship by the Indonesian Government. This team have become real professionals at this having successfully organised a number of long distance boating events.

Before I could start, I had to somehow get from Kuala Lumpur, to Penang for a meeting, back to KL to meet up with my skipper and another crew member all within 48 hours. The night KTMB sleeper (top berth RM27 for over 60's) KL to Butterworth, short walk to the ferry. Didn't have to take the 101 bus to Batu Ferringhi as friends kindly picked me up. Meeting completed and friends rushed me back to the ferry and reversed the trip...except the loco engine broke down soon out of Butterworth and 3 hours later we were on our way with a replacement loco! These things happen lah.

Skipper and crew all on hand to have a great Chinese breakfast and we were on our way by car to Singapore via the second bridge and straight into Raffles Marina.
                              6'3" into a  5' hatch !!

As we would be away around 5 weeks we spent 2 days checking and fixing everything ready for the off. We were accompanying another Malaysian boat named The Duck as she is basically sort of copy of an Alaskan trawler with excuse for sails and waddles along at about 5-6 knots. In our Hunter 49 we did a bit of freelance sailing for fun while keeping The Duck is sight. Always fun crossing the shipping channel in Singapore where an enormous volume of shipping looms out of the haze in all directions. A seriously busy bit of choppy water at times.
                              Raffles Marina- Singapore

Once on the Indonesian side we changed courtesy flags and drifted past a procession of barges heading the same way till we reached Nongsa Point Marina/Resort on Batam Island about 1700 hrs. Agents were waiting for Customs and Immigration to extract our US$25 for a visa and all appeared good. We were invited to a meal at the resort and it was very good, however catering for a large diverse group meant a 2 hour wait to eat. Bintang beer filled the time very well.

                     Nongsa Point Resort/Marina- Batam Island
Originally we were lead to believe that we could have all formalities done and be off again by midnight to keep up our schedule and meet ups with the Indonesian Dept of Tourism events organised for us...BUT we didn't reckon on The Indonesian System...or is that lack of system? At considerable expense, time and effort all cruising permits had been obtained weeks in advance and crew lists and passport details had been submitted to the agent one is to use, but between the agent, Customs and Immigration Jakarta and Nongsa Point everything become a ridiculous farce. Nobody knows what they are doing, the rules seem to change hourly and nobody can give a direct answer to the question "What is going on". For no good reason these individuals between them, decided that they would become kingdom makers and stuff everyone up including the Indonesian Dept of Tourism, who wanted this cruise to enhance tourism and sailing in Indonesian waters. At first entry point this ideal has been shattered. I have no idea if other sailing entry points are any better, but never ever try entering Indonesia at Nongsa point if one plans to proceed to other destinations within Indonesia. Pity as its a pretty place and a lovely little marina, hot showers, clean loo's and good food available...but the authorities make the exercise as unpleasant as it possibly can be and is a hassle one can do without. At this stage, after waiting 48 hours, I didn't care if we were to go forward or go back, but any inclination of ever coming back to Indonesia has been shattered as this stupidity reflects on the whole country.
                 Finally under way...smiles finally did return!
Finally we got away and had to entirely skip Lingga Island, which was a planned layover. The first 24 hours saw a number of squalls and in one blow our mast head light got carried away. Sadly the wind was on the nose most of the way to Bangka Island. It was night again as we got into the easterly channel and we decided to drop anchor and wait till dawn, while having a well needed sleep. The Duck who was a hour behind us did much the same but with much shallower draft ventured into the lee of an island. At dawn we are off in dense fog/haze/smoke and we hit an uncharted submerged rock while motoring at 5.5 knots. Sort of gives a bit of a heart stop, but all seemed ok and we continue on to the small Panjung island, that had had a rush makeover of new jetty, loos, and overall great backpacker camping site had been created. The regional Governor of that part of Bangka plus other officials made speeches and exchanged gifts with our leaders Mr. Lee from Singapore and his good friend Dato' Dr. Z from Kuala Lumpur (and his lovely wife) who's very large cruiser was our mother boat.. 
                         Panjung Island new jetty
                 Meeting local officials-very relaxed
                  Local band with home made instruments

As night fell we found only a small gen set that worked a couple of lights and the  speaker system. Local music mostly played with home made instruments was wonderful. Fantastic costumed dances danced in the semi light from dozens of flaming torches on stakes. There were singers who with the colourful dances invited visitors to dance. Having been bucking about for days and nights in small boats nobody was that steady on land and we stumbled about in true drunken sailor fashion.

The costumes were wonderful yet could only be seen with camera flash. Taking a shot was point hit the button and hope.

Then came the finale. Bola Api a game played on a small sandy oval with flaming torch goal posts and a ball of flaming coconut played in bare feet and shorts only. An awesome display of nimble footedness and courage.

   Panjung Island-Bangka/Belitung Province would be a backpackers paradise  

Bangka and our next stop Belitung Island are unaffected, "real" places unspoilt by money grabbing commercialism. Prices charged were the same as locals and fair, People friendly and always helpful. Nothing was ever too much trouble.
                                 Floating Kellong
                              Hard to windward under staysail
                                   Grand Banks
The sail to Belitung was very hard on to weather and rolling cross seas. Our Auto helm couldn't cope so it was hands on steering. By night we were passing fishing fleets to the north of Belitung and by 1100 next day we were close to destination on the east coast of Belitung Timor (east) and ready to enter the Manggar River with a lead boat to show the way. It was near top of a not big tide (with a new moon). We were assured of enough depth for our 1.7 m draft yacht. Guess what?
                Following guide boat into the Sungai(River) Manggar
 Our view of the village...for 12 hours while we became the tourist attraction!!

Yep hard and fast for 12 hours bouncing around the sandy bottom. Two of us were chosen to go ashore to give presentation and speeches while Skipper and one other stayed with the boat. Next tide was around midnight and a bigger fishing boat lined up. (we had made several attempts with various tow boats earlier without any success)
About 2200 a lot of water was observed in the boat and for safety all our valuables and belonging were stuffed into any bag around and transfered to the Mother boat. One crew did point out that there was no risk of we were already on the bottom and could at a pinch walk ashore!! He is 6'3'' so he was OK lah.
   X-PO (?) Pesta Laut(festival of the sea) and sail Indonesia all in one

By midnight the trawler plus the yacht motor managed to bounce our yacht over the bar and into the safety of the river. At that stage the leak was thought to be very bad and pumps, plus backup pumps and standby pumps with hoses everywhere, we transferred our stuff back aboard. A new bilge float switch was fitted ( failure of the old one was part of the problem) also the fact that there was no non return valve on the bilge discharge hose (which had allowed water in while heeled over) No valves to be found in town, but managed to make up a jury non return valve out of bits, which happily works well.
                      "Mother" boat loading fuel at the Police Jetty

We were pretty sure that the keel bolts had stretched a bit and as Belitung had been a major mining region (The world knows Belitung as Billiton which lends it name to the company amalgamated with Australian BHP to form the worlds biggest resources company) Anyhow we found ..finally.. a workshop guy who took one look and knew we needed an extended 2 inch socket on a 5 foot shaft and T handle. Give me a couple of hours and true to his word by night fall we had our spanner. By now the pump was holding and to dismantle the cabin to get to the bolts was a day job. 
                        Second of the high speed power boats 

So we decided to exit on the next tide, happily a bit bigger and although we were once again grounded, with a favorable wind and all sail set we powered off into safe water. To ensure we didn't ground again we retraced our path to safe water, while most of the fleet took a direct route toward Jakarta a couple of 100 nm away. One cruiser was delayed with paperwork but managed to overtake us as we stopped to bring in our second Tuna. We had a laugh as the only yacht was catching fish while the fishing boys on cruisers were not.
                     Smallest fish we caught, but the best Sashimi
                      Skipper always made sure we had good meal
After another sumptuous meal (we have been eating well with the skippers gourmet food), we finally got the Genoa up as well as full main. For the first time the wind is just off the nose and we had a fetch in 9-13 knots of wind with our speed 6-7 knots. A relief to kill the motor and as the wind built up to 17-20 knots we plowed on at 8-9 knots for the next 10 hours, but even then with wind easing a good average was still possible. The Grand Banks doing 7+ knots wondered what happened as we happily sailed by. The Duck meanwhile had a good start and had discovered its sails really would work while motor sailing and went from its usual waddle of around 5 knots to well over 6-6.5knots.
Doesn't look it but we were going over 8.5 knots in ideal conditions

We were over 10 nm ahead and only 55 nm from an Island we had agreed to make for before attempting finding Batavia Marina Jakarta. We heard the VHF crackle with a plaintive call from The Duck " Motor is going but the propeller is not.” The Grand Banks not far away called back for The Duck to drop anchor and give position. "B.b.but we are still sailing at over 1.8 knots toward you". The Grand Banks managed to stove in a guard rail against The Duck while transferring crew, but gave tow for 12 hours till a patrol boat finally came and took over the last bit to Jakarta. We could do nothing but give bad advise so continued to the Island meeting point and anchored.
                                     SAD DUCK

As it happened the mother boat came withing VHF distance and she had a local pilot on board. They guided us through the shipping, kellongs, fish nets and traps to the Batavia Marina. Again we grounded, but this time very soft mud and we were able to power through and berth before midnight.
                            Marina Batavia- Jakarta
                             Marina Batavia -Jakarta
Batavia Marina is a grandiose enormous building with expensive food and patrons who seem to only come on a Sunday, while the enormous staff wander around the rest of the week looking for something to do. The marina itself has steel pontoons with cement cover and work well enough. The site is tucked in between a power station one side and ship repair and fishing boat harbour the other. The sound of steel working and stench of rotting fish and ever present stench of raw sewage one does not get used to. Like so many Yacht Clubs designed and build by the super rich, it is out of reach of the less affluent real sailors. Meanwhile the berths are full of giant symbols of wealth and battalions of boat boys with polishing rags....

...But when they put on a spread, there are few can equal. The reception put on for us was never to be forgotten. Not just the setting and fabulous food, but the whole atmosphere with dancers, Gamelin bands and a really fabulous solo singer...who became a duet when our skipper joined her and the result superb.
We then had a day out amount the "1000 Islands" aboard the 2 "quick" boats and could relax and just soak it all in, punctuated with an island lunch break. It was nice being able to let someone else do the work
                                  Do it yourself cat
                                 One of the "1000 islands"
                                  The 2 fast boats

Next day was a Friday and to try the Jakarta traffic jam on a Friday is sheer folly. Actually Saturday is not much better. We did venture into the the section of town near the Marina and spent 1.5 hours shopping, 1 hour eating and 4.5 hours in a motor car. Not my idea of fun and so very different to the wonderful easy pace of Bangka and Belitung. Nearly everyone took off for home for 5 days and I stayed behind to fix the keel leak, change oil, try and fix a toilet pump (rotted out) check and tighten all rigging, lifelines and everything else that may have come loose during groundings and usual other stuff.
            Main leak and soft rubber tube used as a worked
By the 4th day some Singaporeans had got back and about a dozen of us hit the clubs, drinking a Singapore concoction of Jack Daniels and ice green tea. This is a seriously horrible drink and I swear delivers a knockout punch. Super speakers pumped out what sort of resembled music sung by anorectically thin little things with gigantic voices wearing either a broad belt or a serious mini skirt. Couldn't make up my mind. Next morning was not good.No pics of the hangover!!

On returning to the marina we had to take 3 taxi's and we were very surprised when a police car followed, drove beside each taxi then waved one down. Lesson one, always carry your passport with you as its a requirement. However the catch 22 is passports are very sort after and risk being stolen. Anyhow the police then demanded Rp 4 million from each of the 4 in the taxi. They didn't have that much but were ordered to turn out their pockets and the police then grabbed all wallets and helped themselves to the equivalent of over US$300. The taxi drivers reaction was as though he was expecting this to take place and while no proof, the impression was that the "Blue Bird" taxi drivers and police work together to rob tourists.. No pics of these cops either.
Part 2
Jakarta to Port Klang.
Sadly one of our crew had a swollen foot that gave discomfort. Back home his doctor gave strict orders to stay home with feet up and take heaps of rainbow coloured pills. Another crew had to "work"..that 4 letter word, so we had 2 new fishing/power boat orientated/chill eating crew join us.

We set off full of expectation and a fair breeze, when after an hour, The Duck who's gearbox heat exchanger had given trouble, reported the same problem again. Sadly we returned to Batavia Marina to try and get a proper repair done this time.
           HAPPY DUCK....just before heat exchanger went again.

We missed the sail to Krakatoa and Sundra Straits. However the 2 big boats did make the trip and reported a huge sea and very uncomfortable trip. One suffered some damage to rudder post as well and had to return to Jakarta for repairs.
                            Very happy Duck
So a couple of days later we headed north in fluky winds and motor sailed a long haul to anchor at Maspari Island at the entrance to the Bangka Straits....BUT....not before we caught a seriously large king fish. Our hand scales only went to 30kg and it fully coimpressed the spring off the 30+kg. Next day and night we negotiated the Bangka Straits. We had dreaded this passage as it was not on our Garmin plotter and even paper charts were a bit iffy. Also the fishermen had been reported as holding up small craft to ransom, claiming net damage and demanding compensation. We were checked out by a small very fast craft full of rows of teeth, but as there were 5 boats together we must have shown force in numbers and we were left alone. On to the passage between Singkep and Lingga Islands. A tricky passage through the straits with hordes of small sampan fishermen in an otherwise pitch black narrows, to a safe anchorage past the narrows.
                                   Gone fishin'
Having had a rather grueling long sail dodging fishing boats, barges, obstacles and islands we decided the next day to sail as a group to the Buaya group of islands and an early stop to fish, sleep and tell tall stories. I think this was the first time we reached a destination in daylight and what a wonderful change it was too. This became our unscheduled pattern onward and could really appreciate the beautiful islands through the smoke from Sumatra to our west. 
        "I got best bait lah"..."Give to other boats, They need it lah"

If some tree hugging, green, do good know-it-alls want to do something worthwhile for a change, get Indonesia to stop indiscriminate burning causing damage not only to the country but chocking up all nearby countries and affecting health of animals and humans alike. Too hard??
     That island is less than 500m away...could have been a nice pic but for smoke.
Next day was a glorious sail some distance to Durian Besar Island. Here we discovered that Garmin maps are seriously lacking as where we anchored showed on our plotter as a few 100m inland!! Go figure as one would say. Another lovely spot if not for chocking on wood smoke. At night some tied a cloth over our noses to act as a filter. 
                     If its big and floats----its Singapore
So onward to Singapore once again. We had planned to sail direct to Port Klang, but we found that some of the electrics put in before we started were not working correctly as well as a new motor instrument panel not functioning correctly. As with electrics and old motor cars, if you fix one thing, another problem takes its place. And so it was one fix after another. Once we finally thought it was all good we set sail for Pt Klang. An hour out another electrical problem raised its head, but the look on the crews faces stopped the skipper before he dare mention returning to Singapore.

The Hunter 49 record Raffles Marina to Royal Selangor Yacht Club was 30 hours motor-sailing. We did it in 27 hours and even then a lot was at low engine revs as there was a danger of over charging the batteries. (That was the new problem)

So next challenge is to remove the keel, re-seal and fit, proper one way valves, more electrical fixing, anti foul etc within a few weeks for the start of the 2012 Raja Muda Regatta...ah but thats another story lah.


We have since removed the keel, sealed and refitted. Unfortunately the manufacturers took the lazy way out as a joint between the lead ballast and the hull and used epoxy. This made it very hard to remove the keel, but explains why a bump on the keel causes leaks. Epoxy it brittle and cracks easily allowing leaks. If ever contemplating a job like this especially if epoxy =has been used, have on hand a number of sharpened edge log splitter wedges, and a heavy hammer as you will need it. Without (and we were without) takes a day wrecking chisels and any solid sharp object before getting a splintering sound of epoxy with some ripping fiberglass. Hunter Yachts please note.

We used 3m 5200 sealant in copious quantities which happily filled all cavities, squirted up the bolt holes and out the seam. We will now tape off the seam while fairing and the later fill that seam area with flexible sealant and fair it down.

1 comment:

  1. You lucky fellow Phil....that must be a very enjoyable trip!