Apologies for the radio silence, it has been necessary to avoid pirates, hawkers and of course harbour masters. Fortunately our syarbandar (harbourmaster) contact lately has been nil. Despite dressing in our best harbourmaster shorts and thongs and turning up at the appropriate perebuan (harbour) office, they have always been closed.
But we have found other outrageous adventures to occupy our time..... like shopping. I should say provisioning, the correct nautical term. Our shore based expeditions to find fuel (bensin), water (air) and food (buah and sayur) with our insufficient Indonesian have been fabulous. Try wandering the 6 foot wide streets of Pulau Seribu (the Thousand Islands- actually only 342 at last count) in torrential rain to purchase eggs (telur), flour (tepung), etc. The streets became rivers and we became laughing stock for the locals as sodden we trod from home to home collecting stores. Everyone seems to sell something from their diminutive front veranda here- room for fruit, veg and toothpaste but not for shoppers. Mikey had the unenviable task of holding the eggs on our return trip to the boat, some distance and many small waves away. I watched as our plastic bag of eggs changed colour from white to yellow as egg after egg broke and spilled its contents to the bottom of the bag. Not a single egg was broken however whilst shopping in Singarapa, the capital of Bawean Island. Perched as passengers on the back of motorbikes, we traversed the streets with our stores held either side. Mikey would swing his cargo of eggs (we eat a lot of eggs, mainly as part of Joel’s incredible home made roti with eggplant omelette) deftly from side to side to avoid yolky collisions with oncoming traffic, potholes, dogs, small children and chickens.
After our brush with shipping traffic, we gave the whole of Java a wide berth and sailed from Pulau Seribu to Bali in eight days. The initial section was truly disheartening due to the incredible amount of rubbish in the water. The Java Sea is awash with rafts of Mie Goreng packets (we endearingly call them Java jellyfish), sometimes as far as the eye can see. We were on watch to de-clog the outboards should the water intakes get choked with plastic. I thought that Sonny’s intake of Mie Goreng was phenomenal but the whole population of Java must survive on this given the quantity of discarded packets floating in the water. Apart from plastic, the Java Sea is also dotted with oil wells, their flaming spouts visible from many miles over the horizon during night watches. Makes us realise how precious the Kimberley is. People pressure is very evident here.
Despite this there were some gems on this stretch including the Island group of Kurimanjawa and Bawean, beautiful remote islands north of Java with amazing coral reefs, and many cultural treasures. We didn’t have time to look for the diamonds that apparently litter the side of the roads on Bawean Island according to our smooth money changer (might be a translation error) nor take up the offers of fishermen to accompany them on their flash outrigger canoes with generator and lampu (lamp) to go night fishing. Apart from our mission to put some miles behind us, we were afflicted by the dreaded curse of the batfish, which had Mikey and I spending at least 24 hours draped over the batfish ladder at the back of the boat in various squatting positions. Batfish ladder? Lets just say that the toileting facilities aboard are primitive and never eat a batfish.
Of course we were also driven by our deadline to meet Jen and Stella in Bali and it was fabulous to introduce them to the delights of Jigal on their inaugural voyage from Bali to Lombok. We took it easy, spending time eating out ashore at Lovina, buying board shorts and re-acquainting ourselves with western style toilets.
After two day-sails from Bali to Lombok, we spent two days at Gili Air diving on some amazing reef, swimming with turtles and veging-out in laid-back cafes. Stella took to the nautical life with gusto, jumping on the forward deck as we went over waves for some zero-g action. Jen was incredible at the helm, propelled by Jimmy Buffet (did I say he adds two knots to the boat speed?) and a nice beam reach we flew along the last stretch to the Gili Islands at about seven knots. It was great for Sonny to have someone as keen to spend time in the water as he is. He really is dolphin boy- he gets in the water when we stop and gets out when we move. He now dives with mask only, dispensing with cumbersome fins and snorkel. Stella and Jen will no doubt add to the travelogue and provide documentary evidence that this isn’t some Donald Crowhurst imaginary voyage.
It was sad to see them go and we have since plodded onwards to Sumbawa. We are anchored off a bay on the north west side of Pulau Medang, north of Sumbawa, looking forward to an overnight sail to Komodo via an extinct volcanic island with freshwater lake overhung by parceled stones placed there for good luck by visitors from Sumbawa. Can’t wait for Komodo with dragons and apparently peerless diving in a well-protected national park. We will then wind our way north of Flores and on to Kupang in Timor before our final passage to Broome.
Till the next missive,