Tuesday 13 December 2016

FADs, Fishing Boats and Nets

FADs, fishing boats and fishing nets will be your biggest challenge while sailing in Asian waters. We have sailed around Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Everyday there is another new challenge.

Fishing boats where our first hazard we encountered when sailing from Thursday Island to Tual, Indonesia. About 24 hours out of Tual's coast line we were fronted with an absolute white wall of lights. Approaching cautiously we soon discovered these lights where squid boats. They are massive and they were in their 100's, literally. they spanned the entire horizon. We later found out they mostly are at anchor so very few are actually moving. We did have one large vessel on the move and through the binoculars it was impossible to establish which way he was moving. they do not display any navigational lights what so ever. As it turned out he was anchoring, very close to our moving boat as it turned out.

Fishing boats in these waters while very beautiful, and come in various shapes, sizes and are very colorful are a hazard because most of them do not display lights or shapes as we are use to. None of them until you reach the Port of Klang will display an AIS. They will not move out of your way and at night came be impossible to determine their movements. They also will not respond to radio calls on the VHF.

Fish Attracting Devices (as first pictured above) are called FADs. They are everywhere and they come in various shapes and sizes. Very few are lite. Some if your lucky have flags on them. most do not. They vary in size and shape but all do the same thing. They are weighted/anchored to the ocean floor, some do float but are still weighted and the purpose is to attract fish. They work very well and its all very ingenious but they are dreadful hazards. Keep a good eye out.

Very hard to judge what it is.
Fishing nets are scary. They are everywhere. Usually you will see a little boat and a flag at the end of his net line, but not always. Some nets are massive and spanning miles. Some nets are drifting and seem to have no end to find. Some nets are laying very low in the water, so low you can drift over them but its impossible to know depth. And some nets are seen with a drum at each end, but again not aways. Be very careful of these nets and if your snagged do not jump in at night, you may get tangled in the mess. Drop your anchor, and wait for day light.

We managed to snag these two water containers with hard core twine joining them.
Its also worth noting here tugs. Most tugs also do not display lights (if they do they are very weak) on either their tug or tow, no AIS and will not respond to radio calls on VHF. The ones around Indonesian waters are just scary. They are huge and impossible to detect at night. The distance between tug and tow can be seriously wide. Keep a keen eye out for these hazards.

Monday 31 October 2016

Stop 20: Riau Islands - Tanjung Pinang. October 27 - 31 2016. Farewell.

Our welcoming committee - The Navy making their presence felt as we motored towards Tanjung Penang.
Our journey to Tanjung Pinang (TP) was filled with a mixture of emotions. Sadness as this was the end point of the rally, excitement because it also meant new beginnings of life in Asia on our own and the usual thrill of arriving in a new place to explore..

At TP we anchored at 00 56.20N & 104 26.56E, in about 6.6 meters of water, with a mud bottom and as it turned out very good holding. The anchorage is well protected but very exposed to the west. All our guide books all said the same thing and as it turned out every single squall we had all came from the west.

We stayed 4 days at TP and left the morning of the 5th day bound for Palau Nongsa to anchor prior to crossing the Singapore Strait into Malaysia. Whilst some yachties will claim it is the busiest strait in the world to cross, that accolade actually goes to the Strait of Dover. Singapore Strait is the worlds 3rd busiest strait. However, do not under estimate your crossing of the strait.

Here are few pointers:
  • You can only cross in day light hours
  • We crossed at the second allocated section located at: 01 10.17N & 103 50.44E to 01 11.50N & 103 49.68E. this is the narrowest section and it only took us 12 minutes to cross at 6 knots. Once crossed over we ran along the westbound shipping lane towards the strait to Puteri Harbour Marina
  • do not hesitate
  • be calm
  • wait for a clear and wide gap from both lanes, these giants move very fast
  • a lot of the ships are anchored both sides of the strait making it look worse than what it is 
  • understand you can not cross into Singapore waters unless you are staying in Singapore waters. The minute your cross over and enter their waters you will be called on the radio by either the coast guard, police and or the Singapore Navy and you will be asked your intentions. 
  • AIS. We all found it difficult to establish if it is illegal to cross without a transmitter, some websites say yes, some say no its not law. However, the shipping lane is busy and it is your to benefit and safety for these ships to be able to see you just as much for you to see them on AIS
  • At the time of our crossing (November 2016), it was not compulsory to announce ourselves on channel 18
Matilda is the red boat - center of screen. Screen shot taken just prior to crossing.
We actually found the Malaysian side of the strait, busier than the shipping lanes. The ships not in the shipping lanes are free to move around as they need. There are no allocated areas for movement. We found this more stressful than the crossing itself. These waters are very, very busy with many different types of vessels and everyone on board should be looking out at all times. Use your AIS to see around corners and do not cross their paths, you need to move out of their way. Once in the strait between Malaysia & Singapore to Puteri Harbour Marina, the chaos will cease and everyone can exhale!

We had to give way to this massive barge as we entered the narrow channel.
Anyway back to TP. Our farewell dinner to be honest was a let down. The process of checking out was stressful and we experienced one of the worst storms we have ever sat at anchor in for years. Other than that, TP has everything you need. Do the tours, it a very interesting place. We had a day where we went to a shopping mall, a market, a squid factory, saw some traditional batik being done and went to a massive Buddhist temple.

Dried squid.

The bay is deceptive, it can house many boats at anchor. This means many dingys heading to shore. Our jetty dock at the time had 3 entry points: 2 on the same platform, one with round steps one with flat - as usual all made out of bamboo. The third was attached to the other platform but very poor construction and one of members actually fell through and it was amazing he did not pierce himself or sustain any injuries. Be very careful on the jetty docks.

Our dingy dock. The little hut with the pointy roof to the right of screen was the dangerous one.
The farewell dinner was a let down. Our itinerary told us to be at Government house (we could easily walk there) by 2pm for dancing and celebrations until 5pm,  then to be back around 7pm for dinner. Well from 2pm till 5pm all we did was sit in the heat listening to speeches, again all in Indonesian. We felt for the dancers who actually had to sit in the sun. nobody was giving them drinks or moving them to the shade. We had one little water given to us and the toilet was a mission to find. At 1645 the speeches stopped, the dancers danced for 10 minutes then everyone left. That was it.

Dinner. As requested we all dressed up nicely, men in long pants, ladies well dressed. Only to get there and find all the officials  seated at what we presumed to be our tables. So we had to sit on the seats out the back and scrounge around for the left over food that wasn't already gobbled up. It was a real let down and everyone felt flat.

Our dinner venue. You can hardly see the chairs way, way up the back behind the tables where we all had to sit.
Not to be beaten we all went back to the hotel and drunk Tiger beers as they don't sell Bintang beers here, and laughed until the wind started to pick up. Given the signal of wind had been a proven precursor to squalls, a mad scramble to the tenders was on. The dingy dock made it dangerous but everyone made it back to their boats unhurt. The storm that night really turned it on. We had consistent winds over 25 knots, peaking at times to 35 knots from the west creating surf. In the anchorage was our rally fleet, the fleet from the Darwin rally, a fleet of power boats up from Singapore and another fleet we couldn't establish where from. There would have easily been over 60 vessels if not more in the bay and 3/4 of them all dragged.

The bottom of the bay is extremely foul. We must of lucked in the spot we choose as we didn't drag. Boats where hauling anchor and having to cut off the debris wrapped around their anchors. Wads of fishing nets combined with plastic bags, fishing line, plastic tubing and loads of other crap made this task very difficult and dangerous for some. One of our fleet ended up on the concrete steps behind them near one of the ferry terminals, and by sheer luck did not damage their boat. Some boats simply couldn't re-anchor during the storm due to so many other boats moving, a foul bottom and quite a few winches where failing.

A ferry terminal.
Most of the fleet did not get to bed until the storm eased and their anchors well set again, and this was well after 0300. The next morning on shore many a story of wow came out and even though the damage to some boats was minimal on some, more substantial on others every one of us gave enormous comfort to each other - it was a very harrowing night for everyone.

A day spent walking the streets was a highlight to see TP in its raw state.

Dried goods.

Yep - dried Seahorses.
We found TP, to be the most populated island and on one walk around found the rubbish situation difficult to understand and process in our minds. How this situation can be left and what seemed to be ignored by the population is difficult to understand. A walk through the markets was in some parts revolting to say the least and as we meandered around the streets more cesspits of rubbish left us all speechless. The people of TP, like most other places we went to, need to be educated about rubbish disposal and control.

The rubbish 'bin' at the market. Kids playing in it. The smell was atrocious.

A dingy ride the day before we left we got to see some of the harbour. Its very different to anything we have ever seen, and quite beautiful in some regards.

Egg delivery.

This hill was jam packed with buildings.
That said the people where all lovely, very welcoming and the food delicious especially in the night markets and local eateries. We would like to go back for a longer stay one day to explore and to understand their history. Quite a fascinating place to visit and TP's proximity to Singapore is a bonus - 2 hours on the fast ferry!

Saturday 29 October 2016

Final thoughts as we close the rally with a few tips.

Everybody asks us: 'Would you do it again?'. Its an interesting question and we often ask in return 'do you mean the rally or do you mean sail around Indonesia'. Which ever way, the answer is a firm yes to both yes.

For us personally the rally was a wonderful way for us to sail overseas in company, especially as it was our first time off shore. It gave us security, companionship, confidence and we have made friendships that will last a life time.

Would we sail Indonesia again, thats absolutely a huge yes. Its easy to sail (which is actually motor), as there is island after island after island to explore. Loads to do. People are lovely. Food is awesome, but would we do it in a rally again, perhaps, most likely yes.

Tips we wished we had of thought of or been advised of (some we where advised of):
  • Research your destinations and all those in between so you know what to go and see prior to leaving. There are loads of places here and it gets a bit overwhelming once you arrive. There are 17,000 plus island's to explore here in Indonesia.
  • If you are into temples ('Pura' in Indonesian), research this. You are about to find yourself yourself in the land of temples in Bali especially as they have over 20,000 on the island. Each temple has a wonderful history and individual meanings. 
  • Researching the statues and sculptures would also be wise as they are most impressive and all have meanings. 
  • Unlock all your data devices
  • Spend some time and download all the google maps and device charts (eg. Navionics, Ovitalmap, iSailor etc) you can.  Go somewhere the wifi is free, eg. McDonalds, your local library - saves your private data as these maps are extensive. Download everything you can, even for those areas you think you will not go to as they are invaluable resources. Navionics & C-Maps are great but they are out a lot of the time, or inaccurate eg. only showing part of existing reefs so its great to compare one against the other.
  • Take a very comprehensive stock of spare parts with you. There are somethings that you simply can not buy here. eg. fuel and oil filters in particular are difficult to source
  • Don't over buy your ships stores, there are loads available here. Re food and non perishable items.
  • Shout yourself a very good sturdy pair of walking shoes/sandals
  • Don't believe everything you read about what you can and can't get here. People eat here and they eat well. They are educated, they have doctors and hospitals, people wash and there is loads of diesel (solar).
  • Know how to replace a split fuel line and know how to bleed air from the system
  • Know how to check and maintain your batteries
  • When it rains here it is torrential. Work out a good, quick, efficient way to capture the rain for your water tanks.
  • Its going to get hot - your entering a prolific volcanic area especially around Bali
  • Understand how the visa extension process works and passage plan around it
  • Advise your bank you are travelling overseas (re credit cards etc)
  • Take a good back pack
  • If you can buy a good underwater camera. You are about to dive/snorkel in pristine waters and some underwater photos are great memories.
  • Buy or download to your phone a translator - its well worth it
  • Take the time to learn a few basic Basha words and phrases, it will make your life a lot easier and its fun
  • Be very mindful of the dingy docks that will be constructed for your arrival. Not all are safe.
  • Expect the unexpected to become normal
  • Come here with an open mind, loads of patience and compassion.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Stop 19: Lingga - Benan Island. October 26 2016.

It took us 7.5 hours to travel 36 nautical miles to Benan Island from Kentar Island. We anchored at 00 27.91N & 104 26.94E in 17 meters of water, with very good holding. Don’t sail to close to shore here, the rocks and reef stick out a long way.

This was our first festivity venue for quite some time and things hadn’t changed much. Same dancing, same speeches in Indonesian and similar food dished up, but a bit more seafood. We were however honored to be the guests of the celebration, which it certainly seemed like the entire village came out to watch. The girls dancing were beautiful as usual with lovely outfits on.

Most of the village lives out on the water and they live on stilts, the same as Kongka Besar. They are very creative and a lot of activity is on the jetty, including our restaurants where we had lunch and dinner. It’s a very picturesque place, with a very short walk to the northern side of the island bringing you to a glorious stretch of beach.

Our welcome ceremony caused great excitement amongst the locals. We think they all turned out on the jetty. We had noticed as we took the tender ashore to give Raymond our paper work there was a pole in the water with parcels attached to it. Part of our welcome festivities was for the kids to try jump off the jetty, try to swim up the heavily greased pole to retrieve a parcel, but it was too slippery for the kids to reach. Next was a fun canoe paddling race. They had ladies of the village rowing 3 of their canoes with 3 of our captain’s on board beating drums, it was causing much laughter and as so much fun.

Our dinner was in the school ground courtyard. What a humbling experience it was. Earlier in the day we had walked past the very run down building with dirt for the playground with a pole to play with. Rooms were bare, guttering was falling off to nonexistent, and the whole thing was just so run down. If you are reading this and wondering where to give your collected writing pads/books, pencils, rulers, etc this is the place. They could do with some assistance for their kids. At the time they had 100 students attending. We all chipped in some money to assist with a new building they wanted to build for the kids.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Extra Stop: Kentar Island, October 25 2016. Over night stop only. Equator Crossing.

The excitement building from an impromptu gathering last night knowing the equator was being crossed today was certainly still buzzing this morning.  We only took 3.5hrs from Konga Besar to drop anchor at Kentar Island as its only 15 nautical miles. We anchored at 00 03.29N & 104 45.47E dropping anchor in 10 meters with good holding. Upon entering the anchorage we were treated to a water spout in the distance. Certainly a sight to behold for those never seeing one, but quite the scary.

The fringing reef and out crop rocks around Kentar extend a long way out, give the corner as you come in a wide berth and don’t go in close to the shore as one of our rally boats discovered, there are some massive bommies here and again the reef is out a long way off shore!

We had some children come out for a visit. Not much English was spoken, but they seemed sweat enough, and didn’t hassle like some.

We stopped at the equator to celebrate, even dropping our anchor in 15 meters of water to do a few traditional antics such as: the Captain ran 3 times around the deck naked, we had a celebratory drink sharing a little with King Neptune – God of the Ocean and we both had a nudie swim together off the back of the deck. We shared the experience with El Gato and Kereru, what fun it was. Actually the sense of achievement was a bit over whelming.

We all celebrated once in the anchorage onboard the beautiful Serica. Everyone took along a plate and laughed the night away in the Northern Hemisphere.