Indonesia Notes - From Rob and Dee Dubin - Ventana
All the worry we had about officials, pirates, thievery, etc have proven to be completely unfounded. Checking in as part of the rally could not have been easier. Since then we have not seen any officials. All the people we have met both ashore and the fisherman have been friendly and very polite. A few boats had kids take minor stuff off the decks but most boats have had NO problems. everything is VERY cheap. Meals ashore cost about $1-$2.
The weather is very benign, lots of motoring and some good sailing in 10-15 knots and smooth seas. Weather is so mild we don't even bother with weather reports.
For the most part we stopped at anchorages mentioned by previous cruisers on the Rally CD or at ones mentioned in the cruising notes in the book available from Colin at Copytime in Darwin. The book is cruising notes on Singapore and Indonesia compiled by Susan Mitchell. I think the book is also on the rally CD but harder to read that way.
Anchorages that were not listed elsewhere that we particularly enjoyed were as follows.
In 2006 we had a persistent northerly swell and often light northerly winds making the anchorages on top of Flores often rolly. We did however find a number of spots to get out of the roll. Most of them you need good light to enter and you should put you GPS on track so you have a track to follow leaving early the next morning before the light is high enough to see the reefs well.
The sandspit on the NE corner of Adonara by the pearl floats at 8 14.6 S 123 19.6 E. We went around the north side of the reef to get here but others stayed inside all the way with no difficulties and this is the shorter route. You need reasonable light to enter.
On Pamana Island there are two anchoring possibilities that we found: One is on the middle of the north side of the island where all the fishing boats anchor. There is a shoal and inshore of that a deep water area. The shoal followed by the deeper water serves to diminish the persistent northerly swell. Also on the far west tip of Pamana there is a deep water channel approached from the north that hugs the island then goes to a little deep water pool just on the south west tip of the island. Need good light to enter and you exit back the way you came in.
On Pulau Besar we found protection from the northerly swell in a beautiful spot behind coral reefs with good snorkeling. The approach waypoint is 8 26.23 S and 122 24.64 E from there you can skirt the reef and parallel the beach continuing as deep into the bay as you choose. Need good light.
In the section from Sea World to Riung many boats spent rolly nights. We found a private spot protected by reef from the swell-- approach from 8 29.2 S 121 49.5E then curve around the easily seen reef towards 8 29.6 S 121 49.8 E anchor in 50 feet with room for a dozen boats or so. we did not investigate the entire area but I imagine you could anchor in 25 feet farher in towards shore.
The best cruising area in Indonesia for snorkeling and diving is around Komodo and Rinca Islands. See our attached list of dive sites courtesy of the magnificent charter yacht Silolona. Komodo is a national park and likely the only place you will see good fish life. Crystal and Castle rocks are world class dive sites, and the snorkel drift between Gilli Lawa Laut and Gilli Durat is fantastic. The anchorage on the west side of Gilli Lawa Laut by the above mentioned cut is calm unlike the rolly anchorage on the north where the moorings are.
Wera on Sumbawa is an open roadstead anchorage but was completely comfortable when we were there. The boat building industry on the beach is fantastic and saves the long slog to Makassar to see traditional boat building.
We anchored in the lee of Satonda Island in 80' rather than roll in the anchorage on the mainland. 8 07.21 117 44.74. Short 10 minute hike to lake.
Town of Labuan is worthwhile. Short Bemo to Sumbawa city with ATM's, great vege market and also a western style supermarket as well as all other services of a big city including an airport. In 2006 a gentleman named Borax helped yachties with fuel, bemos, etc. He speaks English and will come out and find you. Highly recommended for his honesty and helpfulness. He asked for no money so please tip him appropriately. Easy entrance to totally protected anchor basin. Big ships come in here but you will be well clear of them. Port and starboard markers and leading range. You could come in at night but we do not recommend it. 08 27.87 117 22.28
On Gilli Lawang we found a spot inside a protected reef. 8 17.70 116 41.25 You need good light to enter.
We enjoyed Bali especially buying cheap movie CD's (85 cents each), touring the island inland, especially Ubud and area, the waterboom park was a blast and we even found good Mexican food at TJ's.
We also did a tour with Mohammad on Lombok from the anchorage just across from Gilli Air-- very highly recommended- better than most of the Bali tours.
Diesel was easy in Kupang, Labuan Bajo, from Mohammad on Lombok and in Kumai. Lombok fuel much cheaper than Bali marina. Easy propane in Bali and rally has that organized. Fuel more difficult in Riung, Lambata and Labuan on Sumbawa.
The snorkeling and diving is just OK in eastern Indo but around Komodo Island it is fantastic- World class. This is the best area for just slow cruising- 5-10 miles per day and hanging out and being in the water, seeing lots of wildlife etc. There is an option to go north to Makassar on Sulewesi to see the wooden boat building and traditional regatta but if you do that you will not have enough time in the Komodo area. There is also some boat building on the beach at Wera on Sumbawa.
The gentleman at the rally briefing who spoke about Makassar was a very good salesman and a number of yachts went there. The reviews were mixed but no one really raved about it so in my opinion I would skip it as you see the boat building on Sumbawa (at wera) and you miss the best cruising in Indonesia if you go there. You also miss your only chance to slow the pace down and just play.
Best dive/snorkeling are Crystal Rock, Castle Rock and a drift through the pass between Gilli Lawa Laut and Gilli Lawa Darat. (See the Silolona list of dive waypoints). This list also tells you the best cruising anchorages for just chilling out, snorkeling, beaching etc.
Gilli Air is a wonderful stop for a day or a week.
The tour of Lombok with Mohammed from the anchorage across from Gilli Air was excellent. He can also arrange diesel and water. The diesel is cheaper than Bali.
The trip from Lombok or Gilli Air to Bali will be a fast one with the current helping you considerably.
Bali is wonderful. A good tour driver and very reasonable price is Ketut Ciri and he can be reached at email@example.com
Java has several sites worth seeing- particularly the Hindu and Budhist temples near Yogjakarta. We found the easiest way to see these was by leaving our boat in Bali marina and flying there. The roundtrip for two cost only $160. You can do this trip in 1 day but 3 days and 2 nites allows plenty of time.
Leaving Bali northwards- this is the area with lots of fish trap on floats marked with only small palm branches as a flag- or not marked at all. The current is also very strong. We found by leaving the marina in the am and staying just a few hundred yards off the breakers we had almost no current against us and at times a favorable current with us. Just travel until dark keeping an eye out for the floats. We anchored off the nice village of Ambat at 8 19.975S 115 38.594 E.
Next day leave Bali and do a 1 night passage to Ras. Sleep well then do a 1 night passage from Ras to Bawean, a good sleep again then a 1 night passage from Bawean to Kumai. This way it will always be daylight hours when you are near shores and the fishing floats never extended much beyond 10-15 miles offshore. We also found the larger ones with the palm frond flags were visible on radar but the smaller ones near Ras and Bawean were not.
Kumai- We found the 2 day 1 night trip up the river perfect. In 2006 (as in 1997-8) the fires were terrible and the smoke made breathing and seeing more than 100 yards difficult. The smoke was worst in the morning off Kumai town (100 foot visibility) and usually cleared a bit by noon. It was not not bad at all up river where the Orangutans are. We used the following strategy. Arrived at river mouth after noon so we could see going up the river- dodging tugs, barges, and freighters using only radar is not all that much fun. After your river trip get fuel and water as necessary then depart from town in the afternoon so again you can see. Go down to the river mouth and anchor before the last headland. 6-7 feet at low tide behind the point or deeper water farther out with less protection. In the am with the radar going leave the river and head west to get out of the traffic.
Most boats in 2006 went to Serutu but it was very smoky there forcing them to cruise for 2 days and 1 nite or more with virtually no visibility. We instead went west to Belitung island (48 hours). We were in clear air the entire trip and crossed the busy shipping lanes in daylight. At one point in daylight we altered course for 6 ships in 1 hour. We anchored at Belitung at 02 31.82S 107 48.2E. From there it was a series of day hops to Nongsa Point marina, then on to Singapore.
We loved Raffles marina - reports were that 1 15 marina will be fantastic when all completed construction. If that's done by next year, it should be great and much closer to town than Raffles. Some boats did 1 15 for a few days to do town stuff then moved to Raffles for the pool, exercise room bowling alley, climbing wall, general party and country club atmosphere.
From Singapore northwards we did day hops all the way, though a few were in the 60 mile range. Melakka and Pennang are both very interesting cities and not to be missed. We left the boat in Port Dickson and did a trip to Melakka (2 nights) and there to KL (1 night). Traveled by public bus which was easy and cheap. Others spent several days in the Cameroon Highlands and loved it-- they even reported the temperature was almost cold.
Have fun everyone.
A bit more advice for our friends heading to Thailand next year.
Thailand recently changed their visa systems where they no longer allow unlimited, stays or easy visa runs to renew.
What seems to now work best is to get a 60 day Thai visa while in Singapore. You will have to pay for it (it was $50 but unfortunately I can't remember if it was 50 sing or 50 US.) You leave you passport with them and it takes 3 days. You will also need a blank page in your passport for them to put the visa- if necessary the US embassy in Singapore can add pages to your passport for free.
If you arrive in Phuket with a 60 day visa you can then get 60 days and renew easily for another 30 days giving you 3 months.
If you arrive without a visa you will get only 30 days and renewing is prohibitively expensive and is only for 7 days. Also if you want to do a visa run the captain needs to put up a 20,000 baht ($571 US) bond for the boat then it costs about 30-40 US for a 1 day trip to Burma. There was talk of not allowing 1 day visa runs but so far that still seems to be working.
Make sure the crew are all put on the manifest as passengers so the only crew is the Captain.
I can't remember if I addressed malaria in an earlier email.--
Mosquitoes LOVE Rob and he gets bitten often when no one else is so we were a bit worried. We got our shots and meds from a special travel clinic in Darwin- very up to date and knowledgeable but they were not cheap. At the camping store in Darwin by the post office we got Deet insect repellant and the Premthryn (sp) chemical you spray on your clothes and screens which kills mossies.
Rob elected to take prophylactic malaria meds while Dee did not. Half way thru the trip Rob discontinued taking the meds. Most of Indonesia is very dry- looks more like Baja than the tropics we were expecting. We almost never saw or heard mossies so the medicine seemed unnecessary. The clinic can also give you the emergency medicine which you would take IF you got malaria and this seems a better idea than the prophylactic. There were a few mossies in Borneo where you go up the river to see the Orangutans but not bad there either.
Singapore is very nice- we stayed at Raffles which was lots of fun but 1 degree 15 should be finished construction by next year and will likely be nicer and is certainly better located.
From Singapore north we did easy day hops- The Malacca straits seemed about as threatening piracy wise as the Chesapeake Bay. Only danger is the afternoon thunderstorms about 3 pm. No one got hit this year though others have previously. We tried to anchor by 3 pm most days. You get north of the thunderstorms after a few days. Telaga harbour (LANGKAWI) is nice and cheaper fuel than Singapore.
We motored from 2 days so of Singapore virtually all the way to Phuket. Other years people report motoring extensively in Indonesia but we had great sails all the way to the Equator, just so of Singapore.
Timing the Currents in the Passes
The currents in some passes are quite strong and 5 knots with you is much better than 5 knots against you.
There was much confusion amongst the rally group in 2006 as to how to utilize the tidal information to best advantage when transiting the Selats or passes between the islands. The diagrams on page 147-152 of SE Asia Cruising Guide Vol II suggest using the moon's upper transit and lower transit for timing most of the passes, and use moonrise and moonset for only a few.
Moonrise would of course be when the moon appears to rise in the east. Upper transit is the same as meridian passage, that is when the moon as directly overhead (or as close to overhead as it will get), moonset is when it sinks below the western horizon and lower transit is when it is directly below your feet on the other side of the earth.
Since the moon cycle is basically a 24 hour cycle, these 4 phases occur approximately 6 hours apart. So if you know one you can figure the others fairly accurately. Many GPS units give moonrise and moonset. If you have moonrise just subtract 6 hours for lower transit, or add 6 hours to moonrise to get upper transit.
The moonrise or moonset times on your GPS will be in local time for a specific longitude but since the earth spins nearly 1,000 miles per hour if you have the moonrise time for say the longitude of Selat Alor that time will work fine for any Selat from here to Bali as the time would only vary by a few minutes.
This way one boat with a GPS or celestial program giving any of the 4 times (moonrise, moonset, upper or lower transit) could announce it daily to the fleet. The time is approximately 50 minutes later each day so if UT (upper transit) is at 6 am in Selat Alor on Monday it is probably OK to assume it will be approximately 9:20 am on Friday in Lombok.
The book then advises you to write the actual local times of UT and LT (upper transit and lower transit) in the margins next to the indications for UT and LT and figure the currents based upon the diagram.
We cannot vouch for the accuracy of the diagrams in the book however.
We found in our first transit through Selat Lamekera and Selat Boling that the diagram did not match our reality. As we neared the selat at 2 hours before lower transit we had favorable current from 8 miles out as we should have. The favorable current continued for the first few miles, then turned against us and was against us quite strongly for the remainder of the the passage. The boats that arrived there the day before had the same experience while several boats that arrived at almost exactly the wrong time according to the book had favorable north flowing currents from LT +6 until UT -3.
The experience of both us and the other boats over a several day period indicates the current was flooding north and ebbing south.
Bali Hai reported that Selat Lombok - floods south and ebbs to the north.
Our Total Tide computer program gives hi and lows for many secondary stations in Indonesia but only gives currents for Selat Lombok and it confirms what Bali Hai experienced.
Along Flores and westward we found (and the locals confirmed) currents run North and west on the Ebb and South and East on the Flood.
In general we had more currents against us than with us but we found in strong currents it was often better to hug the shore and look for counter currents as the locals do.
From Lombok to Bali the current will be with you and very fast. Leaving Bali along the east coast we found that if we stayed about 200 meters off the breakers we had no current against us and at times current with us.
Dive Sites, Snorkel sites and anchorages from Charter Yacht Silolona
Gorius, the divemaster on the charter yacht Silolona prepared this list for us. We tried a number of the dives and found them to be world class. If you have your own compressor you are all set otherwise it should be possible to arrange for the dive operators from Labuan Bajo to meet you at a dive site you are anchored at and bring you tanks and gear.
Most of the sites are also good for snorkeling and the anchorages are mostly wonderful and calm. You can use the large moorings if they are empty. All the moorings we personally checked in 2006 were very stout. We were later told one of the moorings on Gilli Lawa Laut dragged.
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