Friday March 2
An 0830 start was planned to time our arrival at Aroih Raya as the tide starts to ebb. Currents are very strong here, up to 3-4 kts so we didn’t want to be fighting them. The Aroih Cut is narrower and the tide runs up to 5-6 kts. We had a beautiful day and motored off around the tip of Wei Island passing the zero kilometre monument marking the western most tip of Indonesia.
Not technically the most western tip of Indonesia. There is a little uninhabited Island further West. But lets not let the truth get in the way of a good Monument.
An Easterly breeze sprang up and we had a great blast South under Main and Screecher for the 20Nm to our anchorage in Alurayean Bay on the Southwest of Palau Deudab. Nice Bay but open to the South so bit of swell rolls in making landing the dinghy a bit wet. A beautiful white sandy beach so we swam ashore and enjoyed a walk. Still lots of plastic rubbish above the tide line. Lots of driftwood had us thinking of a beach BBQ but with the tide and surf coming in we decided it was not the best idea. Besides we had decided to depart at midnight to catch the current and breeze down the coast so it was early to bed.
Moonrise was spectacular.
Saturday March 3.
The breeze was good at midnight once we were up and going after being awakened by PP as we had overslept. The current was supposed to be with us but it was hardly noticeable. The big moon stayed with us all night and lightning flashed in the distance all around us. The good breeze petered out after a couple of hours so the motor went on.
Daylight showed dramatic high peaks shrouded in cloud. We pulled into Chalang as we wouldn’t reach the planned anchorage until after dark had we continued. Carlos off Sea Monkey had generously emailed me a copy of his anchorages and tracks from his trip down here last year. We loaded these into our Ovitalmap App. The Chalang anchorage is a little daunting as normal charts are hopeless here. The reefs extend far across the entrance and with very little bright sun it was hard to pick. Following Carlos’ tracks got us into a nice safe place well sheltered from the NW where most of the bad weather comes from.
We found further delamination of the Main so spent a few hours doing more repairs.
We used up most of our remaining repair material so that’s it. Long may it hold together! Ivy and Martin had checked out the village and reported that the locals were very friendly so Lea and I went ashore to stretch the legs. (Jalan Jalan). The kids on the beach were very excited to see us and were all over the dinghy. Rod came over to offer them dinghy rides but that scared them off. Evidence of the Tsunami was everywhere. New USA funded bridges, massive erosion, damaged buildings and 3 storey Tsunami Shelters.
The little concrete village houses were all neat and well kept with fruit trees maturing nicely. Cattle wander around without fear of the traffic or people. Everyone slows down and goes around them. The Mosque is the central feature of the village and locals were hammering away and building something inside as we passed. Lea had had her shoulders and arms covered but her exposed knees caused a stir with the village males. The young boys on the beach were scantily dressed but the young girls on their roller blades were covered head to toe with hijab and long dresses. All were delightfully happy and excited to wave and say hello to us.
A few shops and local eating places were along the road but none seemed likely to be able to produce an evening meal for us so we headed back to the boat.
Sunday March 4
An 0730 start with no wind and a SW swell. We will not put up the main now unless the breeze is up enough to fill it. Big decision whether to turn back to Pangkor 700Nm or continue on 1700Nm. We decide to continue, just may have to burn more diesel than we prefer. We motored most of the day to cover the 50Nm down to Meulaboh. A coal fired Power Station was nearby and many barges, ships and tug boats were anchored both in the bay and offshore. Large and colourful, wooden fishing boats came passed on their way home for a closer look. They were filled with young, aggressively friendly locals keen for a closer look at the boats and a perve at the girls.
Sunset was very red, supposedly a good omen for sailors.
Monday March 5
A busy night with hours and hours of thunder and lightning close by and torrential rain. The anchor alarm went off with every wind shift but the holding in the bay was good and we didn’t move. Our plan for an early morning visit to the market was delayed by more rain. Eventually it cleared and we headed by dinghy into the canal that runs through the centre of town. We passed ice works, fuel station together with hundreds of colourful boats tied to the wharfs.
Lots of boat repair and boat building facilities. People were everywhere, all busy in this very happening town.
We found a place to leave the dinghy’s near the fish market and went ashore to explore. The market was awesome with lots of fresh produce.
The fish market was a bit confronting with so many shark varieties. At least they eat them all and don’t just take the fins.
We were all appropriately dressed and the people were very friendly but not used to seeing many Westerners. One man near the fish market spoke a little English so we chatted to him for a while. Lea was finding that a few of the the young men were giving her what appeared to be obscene hand gestures. Not sure!
Back on the boats we prepared for an overnight passage to Palau Banyak 130Nm south. It was a slow but easy motor all through the night. No usable breeze at all. However, it was very calm and we encountered no storms. THe sunrise revealed a squall line but it wasn’t heading our way.
We arrived at the delightful lagoon off Palau Belah and spent some time trying to find a good place to anchor, eventually coming back to where Sea Monkey had anchored in 17m of coral rubble which felt less than secure. Settled at last we were ready for a coffee and some rest. It wasn’t long before we heard persistent yelling from the main jetty opposite us. Lea checked through the binoculars and saw a group of uniformed people trying to get our attention. We ignored it for a while but then decided we had better go an see them before they commandeer a boat and come to us. So unshaven, tired, no shoes and not appropriately dressed we head across to see what they wanted.
It was the Harbourmaster wanting us to “check in”. Then the police, the navy and the army also wanted to check our paperwork. It was our understanding that we should not have to go through this again in Indonesia. Anyway I talked to them for a while and insisted that Lea and I go back to the boat to get cleaned up and dressed appropriately and also inform PP what was required.
We returned ashore in 20 minutes, cleaned up and dressed with Heather off PP and all our paperwork. Thankfully the officials had found an English speaking SAR Navy Officer to act as Interpreter. On a table near the foreshore under some trees we sat down while they poured over and photographed our documents and passports. Happy with the documents they now insisted on on a vessel inspection. Our interpreter assured it would only be 1 or 2. Everybody insisted on coming so we had 5. We insisted the Interpreter come so that made it 6.
So out they came for a brief look and lots of selfies. On a positive note they were all very happy and friendly. Only the army did not remove their big black boots. There was not a hint wanting any “fees”, they were just genuinely interested. We enjoyed chatting to our Interpreter who was at Sail Sabang last year with the Navy ship hosting the Scout Jamboree we saw. After the Rally the scouts spent a month on the ship sailing around Sumatra.
Finally peace and a quiet afternoon.
Wednesday March 7
Picked up Heather for a walk through town while the others went off for a snorkel. The town is very low lying and the streets and houses are built up above water level by coral rubble. Quite densely populated for a little island we saw 2 schools, a dental practice and many small shops. On the other side of the island are lots of boats many for the surf tour holidays. A mixture of dilapidated shacks next to sparkling new concrete houses brightly painted with shiny SS gates. They seem to be able to grow plants in the coral rubble with lots of Mango trees and others lined the well paved streets. One house owner was removing a hedge of Dill, so the girls asked for some.
We ran into the Harbourmaster we had met yesterday. Apparently he was expecting us to visit his office. He understood that the other officials had taken over but as he rightly said they shouldn’t have been involved. As the Harbourmaster and Captain of the Coast Guard he would be the one responsible if we needed assistance and he needed to know our plans and itinerary. It was a valid point and we apologised. We will ensure from now on that the Harbourmaster is the one we go to. We chatted a while and he informed us that the island escaped the Tsunami but that many people lost family members elsewhere. There is a mass burial site and memorial on the little island of Palau Bagu next to us.
Our next stop was 15Nm away at the bottom of Palau Tuangku directly opposite Bay of Plenty. No villages and stunning beaches. There is also a high tide dinghy passage through to the Bay of Plenty and its Surf Camps.
We explored, swam, found coconuts and had a great combined dinner on PP with Roast Pork, Green Mango Salad and freshly made Pina Colada’s. Dessert of freshly baked banana muffins. Good music and dancing party night. Fly screens all in to keep out the mozzies.
Thursday March 8
A very hot still day. Dripping sweat doing nothing. Took the dinghy over to Bay of Plenty through the mangroves. Glad we chose our anchorage as it is much better than the Bay itself. Off season at the moment but the breaks, though small were still setting up well. The camps were all closed but for a few local caretakers. Would be a magic getaway for dedicated surfer dudes.