Rod Heikell's very informal site on sailing around bits of the world and an eclectic collection of things nautical or nearly so.

Skylax blog SOUTH EAST ASIA 2009


This edited blog will cover our cruising around SE ASIA from INDONESIA through to SINGAPORE, MALAYSIA and THAILAND. The latest entries appear first.










Skylax position reports

We will be posting position reports with Yotreps from September 2007 WHEN WE ARE ON PASSAGE. Position reports can be found at Yotreps from either THE REPORTING BOAT LIST that displays our position and a brief comment on Google Earth or you can download the YOTREPS POSITION REPORTER and locate our track and other data (wind, wave height, bearing) on the world map.

Yotreps  has a side bar menu with the reporting boat list and also a button to download the Yotreps Reporter (reporter software) and instructions on how to use it. The software is free.

You can find Skylax either by our call sign or name:


Call sign   MGAY

Cruising western Thailand

Skylax off Ko Pranak

Langkawi (Malaysia) to Phuket

Leaving Langkawi
You can clear out of Telaga Marina on the NW corner of Langkawi (and fill up with diesel) but some of the officials are not there at the weekend (usually the harbourmaster) so it is often easier to clear out of Kuah and then anchor off at Telaga or nearby anchorages. The Malaysian authorities seem pretty relaxed about this.

Cruising up to Phuket
It used to be that you spent a bit of time cruising up to Phuket and a bit cruising back down, but these days the Thais are less relaxed about boats spending weeks getting up to Phuket or Krabi before clearing in and its best to take a week or less getting there.
We were in a bit of a hurry to get up for the Kings Cup and pick up crew who were arriving so we left Telaga for Rok Nok (around 70 miles) and from there went straight up to Ao Chalong where we checked in the next day. On a more leisurely cruise up you would probably go to the Butang group and then to Rok Nok or across the Ko Lanta Yai and the islands around there and then via Phi Phi or some of the other islands.

Checking into Thailand
See the specific entry below or go to Sailing in SE Asia.
Basically you can go to Ao Chalong and the one-stop office there or to Krabi. Ao Chalong is pretty easy although the anchorage is crowded.

Sailing around Phuket
Around Phuket there are numerous anchorages, especially on the west coast, and several marinas. You can go to Boat Lagoon or Royal Phuket Marina down the windy dredged channel, to Ao Po, a new marina on the NE corner of Phuket, or to Yacht Haven on the north. The latter is probably my favourite.

Yacht Haven
There is a fair bit of current running through the marina but the marina will send a RIB out to guide you in and help you berth. There is good shelter here, but still enough breeze to cool things down. There is no decent shopping here but you can hire a car to go down to the malls and supermarkets near Phuket town. It is close to the airport for crew changes. There are a couple of restaurants in the marina including the Boathouse with wonderful views and farang type food. There are some local restaurants a bit further on from the Boathouse. You can get laundry done, gas bottles filled, all that sort of stuff, and there are also a couple of very good wood-working shops here doing everything from boat carpentry to teak decks.

You can also anchor off to the west of the marina. The marina charges you to bring a dinghy in and most yachts at anchor buy a weekly pass. That means you can also get water.

Yacht Haven Marina      Photo Yacht Haven

Phang Nga Bay
Around Phang Nga there are any number of spectacular limestone islands, many of them with hongs, caves that the rain has carved out of the limestone as it filters through it, and it so shallow everywhere that you can anchor almost anywhere. In the NE monsoon there are lots of anchorages on the west side of the islands and for the most part you can make it up by just looking at a chart. The bottom is mostly mud and good holding although there are some places where the mud is quite soft so the anchor pulls through it until you get to some firmer stuff.

You could spend weeks around here and at times you can re-provision... sort of. Off Ko Pranak a longtail pulled up and lo and behold sold us dinner, a dozen fresh prawns. In the daytime some of the islands are busy with tripper boats running tourists out from Phuket, but by evening it goes quiet and you will likely have an anchorage to yourself.

Hong who?

Back down to Langkawi
As with coming up there are any number of islands you can visit. After clearing out of Ao Chalong we chugged across to Phi Phi, then down to Ko Lanta Yai and Ko Muk, and then across to the Butang Islands.

There are around five mooring buoys off the western side of Ko Adang in idyllic surroundings. There is good coral off the beach and a pristine white beach under the jungle clad slopes. These islands are part of the Tarutao National Park and yachts should refrain from anchoring on coral around the islands. You can be fined heavily for damaging the coral in the park so take care where you anchor.

Coming in here I half expected to find it deserted as this is where Mr Bean, the yacht attacked by the Burmese fishermen, was moored. Although its easy enough to say this was an isolated incident, nonetheless your gut tightens a bit at being in the same spot. I was surprised to find four yachts in here and another half a dozen anchored off around Ko Lipe, which means that yachties do see this horrific attack as an isolated event.

The sail back down to Langkawi was a blustery old affair with 30 knots on the clock at times and a confused sea. It’s worth remembering that weather is weather and even during the settled NE monsoon season you can still get blustery winds and squalls with lots of thunder and lightening through this season.


And another use for an umbrella


On Skylax we needed to replace the top and bottom of the drum on the roller reefing which involved taking out some fiddly screws and bolts. Trouble is if any of them dropped out …kerplink …into the waters of the marina and odds on we didn’t have replacements in our not inconsiderable box of stainless nuts and bolts.
Peter on Sayonara suggested we put an umbrella upside down under the bow and so we did. Of course we didn’t drop anything but without the umbrella we would have.

For more information like this go to Boat Stuff 4: Widgets & Lateral Thinking

Admiral Marina Approaches


Admiral Marina Approaches

The waypoints S1/S2/S3 and N1/N2/N3 (N3 and S3 are the same) give the approximate waypoints into Admiral Marina. For the actual waypoints you need to go to Indian Ocean Cruising Guide. Use the modified track here over the plan in Indian Ocean Cruising Guide with the southern approach S1/S/2/S3 and the northern approach N1/N2/N3.

DO NOT take Google waypoints as actual waypoints (they never seem to match up to my actual GPS waypoints taken on the spot) but just as a guide for getting into the marina. Both of these tracks (from the S and the N) work, well at least they worked for me. The final approaches into the marina are quite shallow, around 3.5-4 metres in places, and you should proceed carefully.

For more Annotated Google Earth Maps go here


Penang New Bridge


Penang New Bridge (Penang Second Link Bridge)

In the southern approaches to Penang a new bridge is under construction between Batu Maung on Penang Island and Batu Kawan on the mainland. The bridge will be the longest in SE Asia at 22 km (15 miles) long with 10 miles of the bridge over water (albeit quite a lot of shallow water).

The bridge is under construction and by day you will see the pilings to take the spans. In 2009 the channel for navigation was on the west side with the southern approach at 05 17’.00N   100 18’.30E and the northern approach at 05 17’.35N   100 18’.48E. There are red port hand buoys marking the southern approach and a police boat patrols the area and escorts boats through the channel. At night things could be a little more confusing and it is probably worth anchoring off and proceeding through in daylight.

Completion is planned for 2012 and the air height will be 30 metres.

For more Annotated Google Earth Maps go here


Clearing into Thailand


Yachts clearing into Thailand need to visit immigration, customs and the harbourmaster. In somewhere like Ao Chalong in Phuket there is a one-stop office for clearing in. When you get to a port of entry then you need to go to the following authorities.

1. Immigration. Fill in the forms and get stamped into the country. Anyone leaving the country by any other means other than the yacht should be stamped in as passengers.
2. Go to customs and fill in the necessary paperwork.
3. Go to the harbourmaster and fill in the necessary paperwork.

When you leave visit the authorities in the same order. The harbourmaster will issue the clearance papers for your next destination and make a charge for light dues (200 Baht).

If you intend leaving your boat in Thailand and then leaving the country by other means then you need to put up a bond (around $US800) with customs. This can be tedious and it can be useful to use an agent, though I have done it without using an agent.

There have been rumours floating around various internet sites of corrupt officials demanding fees for clearing in and out. In my experience at Ao Chalong this was not the case and the officials were friendly and helpful in that smiley Thai way.

At Phuket there is a system of issuing orange flags with a number so that visiting yachts can be identified. In fact we had to ask for a flag and the system has broken down a bit as the flags and numbers have all faded in the sun… we were not checked once while cruising Thailand.


Clearing into Malaysia


Most nationals do not need a visa for Malaysia. When you get to a port of entry then you need to go to the following authorities.

1. Immigration. Get all passports stamped into the country. You will need to fill in immigration slips that remain with the passports. If someone is leaving the country by any other means other than the yacht then they should be stamped in as passengers and not as crew.
2. Harbourmaster. Fill in the paperwork and pay a small fee for light dues (around 40M$/8 Euros/12 $US).
3. Customs. Will take copies of the paperwork and that is that.

Clearing out involves going to the same offices in reverse order. The Harbourmaster will issue the clearance papers for your next destination.

Most nationals will get 90 days in Malaysia which is easily extended for another 90 days. Yachts can be left in the country for a year.

Christmas in Malaysia


Christmas was spent in Telaga Marina with the professors Peter and Fiona from Sayonara, Anton and us. Chickens were roasted with Mediterranean stuffing, roasty potatoes and a wonderful vegetable ragout with green beans, peppers and garlic cooked up by  Anton.
Presents were duly exchanged. I got a rare copy of Peter’s, Lewis Theobald and the Editing of Shakespeare, liberal amounts of good white and red were drunk, and then a Christmas pudding that Fiona had brought out, liberally dosed with Courvosier VSOP and dollops of brandy butter.

It doesn’t seem the same as back in the frosty northern climes of Europe and that is a blessing. No duty visits, no divorces, no eternal quarrelling over imagined slurs, nope it was just all a relaxed time with just the occasional toast to those enjoying a ‘proper’ Christmas.
So Happy Christmas and the best for the new year from Malaysia.


Skylax SE Asia campaign

Skylax racing in SE Asia wins the Raja Muda cruising class and the King Cup cruising class. Back to back wins.

OK so there has been a big gap. Part of that is the lack of a good wifi connection in the anchorages and marinas we have been in, but the bigger part is that we have been racing in the Raja Muda in Malaysia and the Kings Cup in Thailand.
Just for now you get the results. Later you get other stuff.

This consisted of three offshore and overnight passages and two inshore races.
Race 1 Port Klang to Pangkor   Skylax 1st in cruising class.
Race 2 Pangkor to Penang. Skylax 1st in cruising class.
Race 3 Penang to Langkawi. Skylax 1st in cruising class and 2nd fastest time overall on corrected time.
Race 4 Langkawi inshore. Skylax 1st in cruising class.
Race 5 Langkawi inshore race. Skylax DNF. I'll tell you later.

Overall Skylax 1st in cruising class for the 2009 Raja Muda.

For more info go the the Raja Muda

This consisted of five inshore races.
Race 1   Skylax 2nd in cruising class.
Race 2   Skylax 3rd in cruising class.
Race 3  Skylax 1st in cruising class
Race 4  Skylax 2nd in cruising class
Race 5  Skylax 1st in cruising class

Overall Skylax 1st in cruising class for the 2009 Kings Cup

For more info go to Kings Cup

Kings Cup 2009

The crew: from left Anton, me, Lu, Joe and Graham

Kings Cup 28th November to 5th December

This was unfinished business. In 1995/96 I sailed Tetranora down to SE Asia and entered her in the Kings Cup Classic class for the 1996 Kings Cup. We won though it wasn’t easy as two of the crew couldn’t make it so that left just Graham and me racing and getting thoroughly exhausted. In 2009 Graham was back along with Joe from Levkas and the existing crew from the Raja Muda, me, Lu and Anton.

By the time the first practice race was over we all knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We were fourth over the finish line but not sure of our handicap position as these weren’t calculated for the practice race. What we did know was that the heavy old girl needed at least 8-10 knots of true wind to get her moving and preferably more. Any downwind stuff was going to be painful as I had declared no spinnaker for the racing… mostly because our asymmetric would fall to bits in any decent wind and also because I was a bit worried about damaging the girl before we set off across the Indian Ocean. There is still a few more miles to go before we get to the Mediterranean.    Graham aka Grum

There were eight boats in the Cruising Class and some of these were in reality IRC 4 boats, fully crewed up and with nothing on the boat. In fact there were only four boats in the class that were lived on, the rest put everyone up in a hotel and only used the boat for racing. Our temporary IRC certificate for the race was based on our unladen displacement, around 13.8 tons, and not the 18 tons we had weighed in at when hauling in NZ. From the practice race we figured our main opposition was Simba, a Dehler 39 that should have been in IRC 4 but opted for cruising when the new plastic genny didn’t fit, Rainbow Dream, the Lavranos 34 we had been up against in the Raja Muda, Aida, a Beneteau 44, and maybe Rascal, a Halberg Rassy 53.
Simba       Aida  

Race 1
Around the cans in 6-8 knots of NE.
This was not a race we wanted but Joe directed things to give us an excellent start and on the windward leg we went well. With the wind aft of the beam we just couldn’t hack it in this wind and Simba, Rascal and Aida got past us. We just managed a fourth although on corrected time we were 2nd with Simba 1st and Rascal 3rd.
There was a fair bit of analysis going on that night at Kata Beach and a fair amount of Changi beer was consumed to help the analysis along.

Race 2
Around the islands south of Phuket. Patchy 8-12 knots from the E and NE.
Joe gave us another good start and we were 2nd around the windward mark after Rascal. By the time we got to the first gate off one of the islands we had overhauled Rascal and were clear in the lead. We maintained a good lead until you come down through the islands for the return leg and here we messed up with the tide. We should have stuck close into the W side of one of the islands and kept out of the stream that way. As it was Simba, Rainbow Dream, Rascal and Aida passed us and then we got hung up off the corner of the island and had to put another tack out. Doom and gloom on board. The downwind run on a course that had now been shortened did nothing to raise spirits and we were fourth over the line and third on corrected time. Rainbow Dream won with Simba second.
The only bright spot on the horizon was a forecast for more wind in the next few races.
Me and Joe: we will do better, watch out all youse

Race 3
Around the cans in 12-18 knots from the NE.
Skylax blasted off the blocks for this race and we were well ahead by the first windward mark. For the second mark the wind came around to the beam and so we were able to hold our lead over the others with spinnakers coming up behind. We made a few mistakes going down to the next windward mark but were still in front by the time we rounded that for the run home. And then the wind slowly died. As Skylax inched towards the finish line, the spinnakers behind us got nearer and nearer though they were having trouble keeping them filled. Somehow we drifted over the line in first and watched as the others came up on us. Rainbow Dream was the one who could take it away from us, but only managed a third on corrected time with Simba 2nd and Skylax first… we worked for it.
Lu sends up a lucky 'khom loi' lantern for luck in the next race

Race 4
Around the southern islands in 15-25 knots.
I banged in 2 reefs for the start (well we still have to beat up the Red Sea) and even so we managed to be in front at the first mark. We held Rascal and Simba down to the gate off the first island and then the wind began to lighten up a bit. I was a bit slow taking the decision to take a reef out and we messed up in the execution allowing Simba and Rascal through. Aida and Rainbow Dream were also close. On the run home the wind died off and the course was shortened. Somehow we managed to hold second to the finish but Simba was too far in front for us to win on corrected time. Rainbow Dream was third.
Passing one of the bareboat division who had started in front of us.

Race 5
Around the cans in 12-18 knots.
The wind was patchy and although we made a good run for the start, again with two reefs in, it died before we were halfway there and we would have been last over the line except that Simba crossed it early and had to re-start. Once we got 18 knots the girl trucked along and we were the windward boat in our class. After most of the others had tacked we picked up a favourable wind shift and were able to lay the windward mark, somehow inching around it first. The next leg was a close reach and with one reef out Skylax trucked along keeping everyone else behind her though we had to luff Rascal up near the mark (thanks Joe). Down to the next mark we were able to stay in front and the final run to the line was not only mercifully short but there was also enough breeze to keep us moving nicely, even with one reef in. We crossed the line first and were 4 minutes ahead of Simba.
Simba behind us where we like to see her

In the Kings Cup you get one discard which was obviously our third place. That put Simba and Skylax on equal points with two firsts and two seconds. The jury then does a countback and we were amazed to find we had won overall on a countback. To beat a fully crewed up IRC 4 boat with plastic sails, 10 crew and no weight on board called for a mighty alcoholic celebration that night. Two overall first in class wins in the Raja Muda and the Kings Cup and a bit of history after the 1996 win. What do we do now?

Getting ashore at Kata Beach, the venue for the Kings Cup

And ashore there was more food and booze than you can shake a carbon fibre pole at...

Most of these photos are courtesy of Joe Charlton who managed to trim, give tactical advice and take some photos. The rest of us hardly touched our cameras.


The Malacca Strait

Typical Malaysian fishing boat. Most have a light or lights of some description... but not all of them as I discovered

Getting up the Malacca Strait

If you read any of the media articles on piracy and a lot of the stuff on the internet you will see the Malacca Strait gets mentioned as an area where yachts need to be on the lookout for pirates. It’s a piracy risk area, sounds authoritative doesn’t it, for yachts cruising the strait. In fact its not pirates you need to worry about here, but unlit hazards like fishing boats, nets and FADs and logs. Oh and lightening strikes.

Every year several boats are damaged, usually damage to the propeller and shaft, when motor sailing at night and encountering nets and logs. A number of boats have been sunk from hitting water-logged logs that float just on the surface or just beneath it. Fishing boats will usually display a light of some sort, blue and red strobe lights have been popular this year, but not always. Just before Port Dickson at three in the morning we were humming along at 6½ knots under sail when I dimly saw a shape ahead of me and just managed to get the wheel over to skim by a 40 foot solid hardwood fishing boat. He was not lit at all.

In Indian Ocean Cruising Guide I recommend following the 20 metre contour so that you stay inside the commercial shipping lanes and outside the worst of the nets and log-lines. That still pretty much holds true although at times you can be in deeper water and still be inside the commercial shipping lanes.

There is a lot of lightening along this coast and I know of at least half dozen boats that have been hit by lightening in 2009. There is not too much you can do about it except cross your fingers
 and try not to stand anywhere near the rigging. We had one of those little chimney sweep brushes on Skylax that are popular in the USA which was reduced to a short stub after a lightening strike, so I’m not really convinced about the efficacy of them.

The other problem you have coming up the Malacca Strait is the tides. Tides set from the north getting later the further south you go. This means you can pretty much carry the tide the whole way going south down the Strait. Going north you are bucking the tidal system and you will be lucky to get 4 hours favourable tide in any 12 hours.

And so back to pirates.

The Malacca Strait has been extensively patrolled for years and there have been no known attacks on yachts for at least ten years. Local yachts from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand regularly transit the strait and even attacks on commercial shipping have declined dramatically in the last five years. There are still attacks on commercial shipping, but not on yachts.

That said, there can still be events like the one in the Butang Islands in Thailand (technically out of the Strait anyway) where Burmese fisherman murdered a yachtsman in order to steal his dinghy. That is an exception and on a recent visit to the very same place there were at least five of us tied to moorings in the bay and another half dozen yachts around the corner. In general piracy is not an issue in this part of the world and it’s the dangers mentioned above, unlit fishing boats, nets and long-lines, floating logs and lightening, that are the real worries.


Raja Muda inshore races at Langkawi


HiFi (overall winner of the Racing Class) in action at the mark   Photo RSYC

Raja Muda inshore race at Langkawi

This was an interesting race around some of the islands and islets in the Langkawi archipelago with a good ENE 4 making for some interesting racing. On the windward leg back to the finish Skylax established a good lead over the other boats and won this inshore leg.
Breakfast for the Rainbow Dream crew. Rainbow Dream is a Lavranos 34 in our class and we were to meet again at the Kings Cup

Raja Muda inshore race at Langkawi

This was the last inshore race and started in a light easterly. We drifted down the course to the first island mark losing ground to most of the others in our class that flew spinnakers. Not until the mark did we get a bit of wind and the windward leg saw us catching the others in our class. Now on my chart I have a pencilled note from 13 years ago that mentions a coral outcrop. I know its there because a friend in his boat ran up on it. With the red mist of racing on our minds and catching the other boats I reckoned we could skim by without having to put in a tack.

Silly me. We hit the coral outcrop at 5½ knots and poor old Skylax tried to go skywards. We rolled off the side of the outcrop and Lu and me started pulling up the floorboards and inspecting the bilge. We also rolled up the genny and started the engine. After mopping any semblance of water out of the bilge there was nary a drop, but we continued to monitor it as we motored back having abandoned the race.

In the morning Paul from Boatique in the Royal Langkawi dived down to have a look and although we had taken some chunks out of the starboard wing on the keel, the hull-keel joint looked good and we breathed a sigh of relief.

The night before was the big party and Skylax got more hardware and first in class despite our DNF in the last inshore race. Phew. But I did mark the exact position of the coral outcrop on the GPS so lets just call it intensive research…

John Fergusson, organiser and MC for the Raja Muda dishing out the prizes in Langkawi. Brilliant job John and brilliant regatta.

For more on the 2009 Raja Muda go HERE

Raja Muda race 3: Penang to Langkawi


Raja Muda 3rd race: 60 miles

Penang to Langkawi

The wind was set for a close reach for this leg and that’s a wind Skylax likes… nay loves. With 10-15 knots from the ENE Skylax set off like a scalded cat and for much of this leg we sat on 7-8 knots. There were a few quieter patches where we were down to 5-6 knots, but for most of the leg the girl romped along and we finished inside 2200 after a 1330 start.

Skylax easily creamed this one beating a whole pile of IRC 3 & 4 yachts to the finish line and on handicap was the second fastest boat in the fleet. Only the speedy Thor, a trimaran, beat us on handicap. By midnight we were tied up in the Royal Langkawi Marina and after a few bevvies we hit the sack.

And later

Collecting the prizes at the Royal Langkawi YC for overall winner and ... well at least one inshore race.  Photo RSYC

Raja Muda race 2: Pangkor to Penang

Start of the race off Pangkor   Photo RSYC

Raja Muda 2nd race: 60 miles

It was windy in Pangkor come the start of the next race to Penang. ‘Two reefs’ I wondered, and then with a gust over 30 knots we put in three reefs. A big sea was rolling in and the start boat started to fill with water and had to be replaced by the navy boat.

The IRC racers smirked at the old cruiser with three reefs in, but not for long when the race started and Skylax started putting miles on IRC 3 & 4 boats. In fact for a while we had a First 44.7 and an older IRC 3 boat wanting to race tactically with us. As we out-paced them, with full bimini and spray hood and no rail-rats, Lu who was helming called back… ‘and it’s a girl driving as well…’

By dusk the wind had dropped off, but soon came back in from the NE and we cruised up to Penang arriving in the early morning, just 10 minutes after the crewed up 44.7 with plastic sails.

The next day was to be an inshore course around the cans, but after hanging around for several hours with no wind it was called off and racing abandoned for the day.

The meal ashore that night was just amazing. In a sort of Chinese mews with ancestral shrines at either end there was more food, more good cheer, and more atmosphere than you could shake a carbon spar at. Just blindingly magnificent.

Dinner venue in Penang

Raja Muda Race 1: Port Klang to Pangkor

Ready to go on the pontoons at Port Klang

Port Klang to Pangkor Island: 68 miles

In the yacht club the registration and paperwork for the Raja Muda is all carried out with volunteers and race officers scanning IRC certificates and working out the cruising handicaps for boats like Skylax. Dave Richards was in charge of cruising and classic handicaps and did a good job sorting out the handicaps for the disparate selection of boats on the water.

Most of the offshore races in the Raja Muda start in the afternoon and unless you happen to be a 75ft Reichel-Pugh like Boracay or a 56ft racing machine like Neil Pryde’s HiFi, you are generally going to finish the next morning. Racing through the night in these waters has its own special flavour with unlit fishing boats, nets, log-lines and some strange and unusual FAD’s with just a few palm leaves sticking up to let you know it is there. The Malaysian Navy would go ahead to clear the course, but once they were gone the fishing boats just popped out again onto the course.

A good SW breeze filled in for the start and we got away and were soon sitting on 8 knots feeling pretty chuffed, well at least until the racing boats started and came flying through with asymetrics up and pulling 12-14 knots. By early evening the wind had dropped and it began to rain, and rain, and rain. Oh and lots of thunder and lightening for added ambience. It rained, proper tropical rain cutting the visibility down to nothing, for over six hours. And then the tide turned and we were going backwards for several hours.

Entrants in the cruising fleet are allowed to motor and then log the hours with the race committee. The rules are that no boat that has motored can finish higher than a boat that has not, and no boat that motors for more than 20% of the time can finish higher than a boat that motors for less than 20% of the time. Pig-headed me refused to start the engine although new crew Anton was getting a bit miffed about drifting backwards with the tide. Eventually a light north-easterly filled in and we slowly got sailing in the right direction again. By morning we were nearly up to Pangkor, but a decision to sail outside some islets in the approaches meant we lost the wind and after drifting around for a bit I fired up the engine. We motored for 44 minutes before we picked up a light headwind and tacked up to the finishing line.

That evening when we inspected the results there we were, in 1st, having motored a lot less than anyone else. In fact one of the boats had motored for over 7 hours. And sadly one of the entrants, a Hunter 40, had lost it’s mast soon after the start.

Port Klang


Port Klang YC

This is a river straight out of Conrad’s Lord Jim. A steaming tropical river port teeming with coasters and lighters loading and unloading cargo, the river itself full of rubbish swirled along by the current, tin-roofed houses down at the waters edge with rickety wooden jetties, a miasma of steamy mist overlaying the water… this is Conrad’s river. Even in town you get a feeling of edgy goings-on, of seedy characters in dilapidated bars off the main street, of con-men and others. Of the con-man we know something when a car pulled to a halt and a well-groomed Indian man got out. ‘Do you have any small change… I need to change 100 Ringit…’ With slight of hand and the old distraction technique he managed to take a hundred Ringit off us before a friendly shop-keeper warned us to have nothing to do with this ‘bad man’.

From the detached pontoon in the river you look across to the wonderful Royal Selangor Yacht Club, built in Malay style and open to what little wind there is. A bumboat runs you across the river and you sink into rattan chairs and order a drink from the attentive staff while fans whirl overhead. Malay style with colonial overtones.

This is all up the river in old Port Klang. Downriver at the entrance is the new duty-free port, all huge deep water docks and serried rows of gantries to haul the containers off the ships and onto trucks bound for Kuala Lumpur. In the river entrance just south of the main south channel there is a brand new marina built by the government that the RSYC hopes to move into … that is when the local politics have been settled and permits granted.

Wooden coaster from Indonesia chugging up past the RSYC

Danga Bay

Danga Bay Marina at 01 28'.38N 103 43'.42E WGS84

If you proceed up the Johor Strait from Puteri you come to the huge new development at Danga Bay. This is intended to be a huge commercial and residential development hitch-hiking on the economic powerhouse of Singapore just across the water. Danga Bay was the venue for the Sail Malaysia Rally with lots of free dinners, exhibitors from various parts of Malaysia and tours of Johor state.

As you get close to Danga Bay you need to be careful of the sandbank on the western side of the bay which stretches more than halfway across the channel. Just stick close in to the eastern side of the river mouth where all the development is going on. Its all mud here so as long as you are going slowly its not a problem touching bottom. On the eastern side there are 3-4 metre depths up to the pontoons off the shore at 01 28’.38N   103 43’.42E (WGS84). You can berth on the finger pontoons or anchor off clear of the fairway.

There is good shelter and you can clear into Malaysia here, although you will need a taxi to get around to the various offices. There is an ATM, food stalls and a supermarket not too far away.


Mediterranean Almanac Supplement 2009


The supplement for the 2009-2010 Mediterranean Almanac is now on the Corrections page. The corrections will go up on the Imray web site in December and will include amended or new plans which are not included in the simple text version on this website.
Please read the following when downloading or printing off the Supplement.


This page contains some recent supplements to my books. It is not intended to be all-encompassing and for a complete list of supplements you should go to the Imray site and click on corrections. The corrections on the Imray site are in pdf format whereas these are straight html.

Note: If you want to print off the corrections for a book from here I suggest you highlight the corrections for the book you want and then copy it into a word processor like WORD. If you simply press PRINT for this page it will print off all the corrections - a lot of pages and a lot of paper and ink. We are short enough on resources on this planet as it is ...


Malaysia: Puteri Marina


Proceed under Tuas Bridge 25 metres air height. Once under the bridge the channel is well marked all the way up to Danga Bay. Do not stray close to the Singapore side which is a military area and firing range (you will likely hear them practising). Once up to the Puteri marina and hotel/apartment complex you will see dredgers and barges around the entrance. Call up Puteri Marina on VHF Ch 18 and they will send a boat out to guide you in. In November 2009 there was 4m least depth (my adjustment for LAT) at the entrance, but dredging is ongoing. It is planned to have a least depth of 4.5m LAT.
Note: The entrance is silting already and is likely to continue doing so in the future so contact Puteri Marina to see what depths there are in the immediate approaches to the outer basin.

76 berths. Visitors berths. Max LOA 60m. Depths 4-6m. Charge band 2.
Berth where directed. There are finger pontoons and plenty of space to manoeuvre when entering or leaving a berth. Staff will help you tie up. Excellent shelter.
Authorities   The staff will run you into the large container port at the entrance to the Johor Strait to clear in with the authorities. You need to give them a days notice for clearing in and clearing out. A charge is made as quarantine and customs will come to the marina. You clear in with immigration at the container port.

Water and electricity (220V). Showers and toilets. Laundrette. Wifi. Fuel and gas can be arranged. There is a small chandlers cum grocery shop, but the stock at present is so limited it is unlikely to have anything you need. Transport arranged on specific days to a night market and to a supermarket.

This is a very upmarket marina, part of a huge hotel and residential complex. The public marina is up and running and a convenient place to clear into Malaysia. Work on the rest of the complex in ongoing. The staff are all very friendly and bend over backwards to make things work. Puteri, by the way, is ‘Princess’ in Bahasa Malay.

Superyacht berths: It is planned to have a superyacht quay for approx. 10 superyachts in the outer basin. Max LOA 100m.
Bridge: The plans show a bridge between the outer basin and the public marina. It is not known whether this will be a lifting bridge or a floating bridge that swings the middle span to one side.
Private marina: A private marina for residents is under construction south of the public marina.
Villas and apartments: These will likely go up in stages as they are sold off.
Commercial centre: Like the villas and apartments, this will be developed over time.

Again this is the initial plan I send to Imrays to be tarted up and digitised for the books. Yes they are all drawn by hand and yes it takes a while. Perhaps some of the less scrupulous amongst you that have scanned my books or photocopied them might reflect on the amount of work that goes into the pilot books...then again it just might be for the gods to balance things up.


Raffles Marina


The approach up the Johor Strait is straightforward and well buoyed. Once you are through the ship anchorage off Tuas you will see a rusty buoy and incongruously, a shrimp farm with a hut on stilts at the entrance to the strait. We passed between the rusty buoy and the shrimp farm where there was good water (7-8 metres). The reason the shrimp farm (and others further up the strait) are seemingly stuck out in the middle is that they are in Malaysian waters. Singapore has reclaimed so much land that it is nearly up to the former boundary mid-strait between Singapore and Malaysia.

Once into the strait it is well marked with port and starboard buoys though we tended to stick loser to the port hand buoys where the channel is deeper. There is a bit of tidal current in the strait, but no more than a knot most of the time so you can make your way against the tide without too much trouble. Raffles is easy to spot just before the Tuas second crossing bridge. Leave the green buoy and a small yellow buoy (isolated danger?) to starboard and head for the prominent mini-lighthouse at the entrance. Raffles works on VHF Ch 77 and you will directed to a berth and helped to tie up.

The marina is part marina and part hotel and club. Berth holders automatically become members which means you can use all the facilities including the pool, showers (a towel is provided at the desk) and a 15% discount in the restaurant and bistro. To get into town there is a free shuttle bus to Jolong Point and Jolong East where you can catch the MRT into downtown Singapore and there are also malls and supermarkets.

Everything works in the marina: potable water, 220V (with a strange plug that the marina staff will wire for you), wifi, laundry and clean showers and toilets. There is a fuel dock on the outer wall. It is a little hemmed in from the cooling sea breeze at low tide (around 2.5 metres range), but otherwise is pleasantly located and has relatively easy access to downtown Singapore.

Attached to the marina is Marina Yacht Services with a 70 ton travel hoist and a good range of services. It isn’t cheap but is efficient and most things can be done. While I was here a yacht that had been struck by lightening on the east coast of Malaysia was in getting all instruments, radios, etc replaced. This is probably the best place to have any insurance work like this done. There is also a large chandlers, said to be the largest in Singapore and I suspect that’s so as its pretty well stocked and items not in stock can be ordered in.



Raffles Marina. Tuas Second Crossing Bridge in the background

Singapore has tightened up on the regulations governing small craft in its waters and has effectively become a one-stop destination. The reasons are varied but include the huge amount of commercial traffic around its shores (see Crossing the Singapore Strait on this page) and a less lenient attitude to cruisers who have abused the rules here in years past (I’ll be expanding on that in a later rant).

Clearing in

Yachts can clear in at Raffles Marina or at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. Currently the charge for this is around $S140. If you get the marina to clear you out then you pay this fee again. The marinas must bring the immigration man to the marina so some of the charge is for this service. Clearance is only during working hours which is 0800-1600 for Raffles Marina and 0900-1700 for RSYC. Keppel Marina also offers clearance though this does not always seem straightforward.


The alternative is to call Singapore MPA for east or west control and clear customs off the coast. This only operates in the eastern approach (off Changi VHF Ch 16/12) or western approach (off Tuas reclamation VHF Ch 16/68) and you will be cleared at sea. I haven’t done this, but talking to a yacht that has, it apparently is quite painless. The customs boat comes nearby and a long-handled net is held out for documents. This is then processed on board the customs boat and the completed docs put back in the net and passed back across.
Yachts should heed the letter of the law regarding procedures as, although the officials are all very friendly, a close eye is kept on yachts and all systems are computerised (including those on board the customs boats).
If you have any crew leaving the boat then they should be entered as passengers and not boat crew. All crew on board only get two weeks on arrival, but this can be extended for (usually) 30 days on first application and longer if you are having work done on the boat. You can do it yourself by going to the Seamans Section at Marina South Pier in the Departure Hall (Tel 6324 5015). You will need to take a taxi there from downtown Singapore.

You will need the following documents to clear a boat into Singapore
  • Passports
  • Vessel Registration Certificate
  • Insurance Certificate
  • Last Port Clearance
  • Crew/Passenger List (to be stamped by the Immigration officer)

Singapore Marinas

Keppel Marina
01 15’.9N   103 48’.1E   WGS84
70 berths. 170 berths when finished. Visitors berths. Max LOA 25m. 5 superyacht berths.
Suffers from some wash. Shuttle bus to MRT.

One degree 15 Marina Club
01 14’.50N   103 50’.40E
270 berths. Visitors berths. 13 mega-yacht berths. 5.5 metre depths.
Suffers from wash. Visitors may be asked not to use some facilities when members need them (usually weekends).

Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
VHF Ch 77
180 berths. Visitors berths. Max LOA 25 metres. Mega yachts by arrangement.
Suffers from wash. Need to take a taxi to town.

Raffles Marina
VHF Ch 77
165 berths. Visitors berths. Max LOA 20m. Megayachts can go on the outside of the breakwater. Depths 2-5m.
Less wash than the other marinas. Shuttle bus to MRT and shopping. Yacht services and chandlers.

Choosing a marina to go to is always going to be a matter of preference. Raffles is the most comfortable (wash-wise) and although it is further away from downtown Singapore, the marina operates a regular shuttle bus to the MRT at Jurong Point and Jurong East. There are large supermarkets at Jurong Point and Jurong East and malls with lots of other shops.

Moving around Singapore

Yachts that want to move from one port in Singapore to another need to have a Class B AIS transponder. These can be hired for around $S35 a day (2009). If you are entering and leaving from the same port the transponder is not needed.

The Mass Rail Transport system is Singapore is fast and efficient and cheap. You can get to most places or close to most places in Singapore and then take a taxi to where you want to go. Buy a smart card for a single journey (around $S2-3 for most journeys) and then get a dollar refund when you return the smart card. Taxis are everywhere and relatively cheap.

If you need to haul there are not a lot of options around either in the Batam Islands, Singapore or Malaysia south of Lumut. Around Singapore Marina Yacht Services at Raffles have an efficient if fairly expensive operation and you can usually get in here. There are a few other places around but it seems to be difficult to get a definite date to haul.
Yacht Services Yard at Raffles Marina


Ocean Passages & Landfalls 2nd ed


With a strange and wonderful synchronicity the 2nd edition of Ocean Passages & Landfalls is being printed here in Singapore while I am here. It is not cut and bound yet, but will be soon. Some of the staff from the printing works are coming down to have a drink on Skylax... 'You live on this boat? What happens at sea when it's rough? Do you all go to sleep at night? Ohh I want to see a boat' the questions come fast and hurried with a burning curiosity for this strange man who lives on a boat.

The new edition should be out in December but check on the IMRAY site for details. Both me and Andy have put lots of work into this edition and it is a different and better beast than the 1st edition. Well you can all be the judge of that.

Preface to the 2nd edition

Off the coast of Mindelo in the Cape Verdes a small tan sail emerged heading at speed towards Skylax. Balaena had everything up including the topsail on her gaff rig and was fairly skipping over the waves. We had been talking on the radio for days as we headed from divergent ports in the Canaries towards the Cape Verdes and had planned for months to meet up there for the first time on the water in our boats. The fact we met up in the ocean and sailed together to Mindelo was pure chance. We have talked often on the land in different countries, but meeting up on the water was a token, a special sartori, of how far we had come after embarking on the project of writing Ocean Passages and Landfalls. As usual Andy was heading south to the higher latitudes of Chile and Antarctica while I was sailing west for the Caribbean and Pacific along lower lats.

For this edition we have revised large chunks of the original book and have sailed tens of thousands of miles looking at the passages and landfalls. One significant change to this edition is the inclusion of guides to cruising areas around the world. From Greenland to Antarctica and the Red Sea to Vanuatu, we have put together the sort of information that is useful when choosing just where you want to go as well as some photos to give a hint of what is there. It’s a big planet and seven tenths of it is covered by sea, so we are fully conscious that there are a lot more places waiting to be explored. We will put future guides to cruising areas up on the Imray web site (

There is one blot on the seascape to this edition. Before this new edition came out Warwick Clay died in NZ and so we can no longer rely on his extensive knowledge of the South Pacific. We have done our best to research the South Pacific ourselves and Skylax has spent a busy year and more trundling along South Pacific routes to landfalls in this book. Hopefully Warwick is looking down benignly on us from his watery Valhalla.

Rod Heikell
Cairns 2009


Raffles Marina annotated Google Earth


Singapore: Raffles Marina

For more annotated Google Earth maps go HERE


Getting across the Singapore Strait


Sitting in Nongsa Point Marina and looking out to the Singapore Strait it’s rare that you don’t see two or three ships passing by. I have never seen tankers as big as these with some of them the size of several football pitches. They make Panamax ships look tiny. Singapore is the busiest port in the world (so Singapore MPA says) with some 140,000 shipping calls every year. I work that out to be an average of 380 shipping calls a day. On any one day there are reckoned to be 400 ships in the designated anchoring areas around Singapore. Ships transiting the strait are strictly regulated and are on average 15 seconds apart. In practice this is not how it works and you get ships overtaking in the strait, ships slowing down and turning to go into the Port of Singapore, and ships just going slowly while they take on supplies.

'Aussie' Deans recommended route is shown in red

So the talk was of how to get across the strait to Singapore. There are two crossing zones clearly shown on all charts and any small craft needs to cross the shipping channel as near to right angles as possible in either of these two zones (shown with a ‘T’ on the plan). You can be fined for not crossing at these zones as near to a right angle as possible and it’s important to remember that small craft do not have right of way over shipping in the channels whether they are sailing or not. In fact I’d recommend you just have a main up with a reef or two in it to give a bit of stability to motor-sailing and also increase your visibility.

Fortunately we had ‘Aussie Dean’ at the bar who has been cruising around Indonesia and SE Asia from Darwin for the last 20 years or so. His easy route for crossing the strait is shown on the map. Basically you go west just outside the shipping channel until you get to Batu Berhanti at the western crossing zone. There are fewer ship movements on this side of the channel, though ‘fewer’ here is a relative term, so it is easier to stick to the Indonesian side rather than crossing at the eastern crossing zone. Then head across to Kusu Island and ‘the sisters’ until you get to the north side of the shipping channel.

You will most likely have to slow up or do a turn to avoid shipping going E or W, but it is not that difficult. The isolated danger mark on this crossing is a useful reference point and you shouldn’t  worry too much as it marks a 14 metre patch, adequate for most of us. You will likely see small open fishing boats pottering around fishing between the E and W-going channels, seemingly oblivious to the nautical juggernauts coming through. There are also a fair number of fast ferries going back and forth between Indonesia and Singapore which are used to keeping clear of small slow craft like yachts.

Yachts going to Republic of Singapore YC, Senetosa or Keppel Marina will head up the East Keppel Fairway. Yachts going to Raffles Marina should proceed west along the  northern side of the shipping channel to Raffles light and then head across the anchorage areas to where they can turn to head towards the Johor Strait and into Raffles just before Tuas No.2 crossing bridge. Anywhere around Singapore port you need to keep an eye out for ships leaving and entering the port facilities and the anchorage areas.
Raffles Point with distinctive light house

One thing that will strike you is the vast extent of the oil storage tanks and refineries along this bit of Singapore. This little island has the third largest refinery area in the world. A bit further on you will come across oil rigs in various states of construction. Singapore builds more oil rigs than anyone else in the world. To police all this fast patrol boats roar up and down all the time and call up ships that are not conforming or have not checked in with Singapore traffic control. It’s a hurley-burley of organised chaos with more than enough going on to keep you occupied, but in practice it is not as bad as you might think as long as you keep your wits about you. I overheard a conversation in the bar at Raffles Marina where a sailor reckoned ‘it was all just a game of chicken’ and that you should just head for the ships … ‘yerknow, like a game of chicken with cars’. Sure. Only in this case it’s a bit like playing chicken in a pram with an articulated lorry. No doubt he will contribute to some forum on the best way to take on shipping in the Singapore Strait, just before he runs out of luck and becomes chicken soup.


Agar Agar


In lots of the bays in Indonesia you will come across marine farms with lots of buoys in rows or sometimes just clumps. There may or may not be a large buoy or a floating platform marking the extremity of the buoys. At first I thought they might be mussel farms, but you don’t get too many mussels on the menu in Indonesia. And then I thought, aha, its pearl cultivation and indeed some of them are for pearl cultivation. It was only in Telok Bari that I discovered from some curious teenagers who had paddled out to the boat that many of the marine farms were growing seaweed (and that took some time with the aid of a Bahasa – English phrasebook), agar agar to be precise.

Anyone who did botany at university will know that agar is used to prepare a sterile nutrient jelly that is used in petri dishes to grow cultures of bacteria and fungi. Yep, I was there, Pilobolus kleini, the horse-dung fungus, was my speciality. It really is a very clever fungus…

Anyway, agar, it appears, is mostly used by the Japanese (where it is called kanten) in desserts and this probably explains why the lads who came out were learning Japanese (and English and German) at school. They had to go and get some to show us and it looks remarkably gelatinous in its natural state. And the word agar comes from the Bahasa Malay word for jelly: agar agar.

Local sailing boats in Indonesia

Pinisi (phinisi, pinisq)
These are schooners or ketch rigged boats of around 40 to 60 feet that are generally gaff rigged with two or three foresails. Unlike European gaff rigged boats, the gaff is permanently fixed in place and is not hauled up as on European gaff rigged boats. At first I thought they were like the sprit rig of a Thames barge, but the sail is in fact brailed to the mast and then hauled out between boom and gaff. A topsail can be rigged as well.
I’ve seen lots of pics of the traditional pinisi in Indonesia and had a friend who had one built in Sulawesi as a yacht. During our time in Indonesia I saw only one of them sailing. There were a lot of others around, mostly used as charter boats for diving and as tripper boats, but it was pretty obvious from the arrangement of awnings and lack of sails that the masts were only for ornament. In fact most of them had deckhouses so high that there was little room left to set a sail and with so much top hamper they could only be described as motor sailors, and even that is being charitable.
Charter pinisi with fixed gaffs...a motor sailor at best

I’m not really sure about the name, but these are Bermudan sloops or cutter rigs on a development of the traditional hull. We only saw one sailing in the distance.

This is the Indonesian name for a proa with a crab-claw sail and you see quite a lot of these. Some of them are canoes carved out of a single log with the outrigger and some are planked or a combination of the two. They are fast, can go to windward, and are most used for fishing, either trolling a line or fishing off the reefs.
Years ago I remember reading something about the crab-claw sail being the most efficient to windward, more so than the Bermudan rig normally considered the most efficient to windward. I’ve yet to locate the source of this bit of information that a stray neuron in my brain lodged away until now, but suspect it may be from C A Marchaj’s tome.
Prahu. Also the pic at the beginning of this entry.

Lots of the traditional boats are now powered by diesels (see the bit on ‘Mr Engine’ in this blog), but some of these still use a sail for added propulsion and motorsail most places.
This beautifully painted boat was seen on our way to Bawean above the Nusa Tenggara.


RIP David Parkinson

RIP David Parkinson

David Parkinson was sadly lost at sea en route from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to Nuku’alofa in Tonga. He had taken on a kiwi crew member, Alexander McDonald (65) who was a sailing virgin and when David was lost overboard he didn’t know how to sail the boat back to him, get the old engine on Santana going, or send a mayday. He drifted around for three days before setting off an emergency beacon and being rescued by a Tongan patrol boat. Alexander McDonald said that when he woke up to take his watch David was not there and he sailed around trying to find him, though he admits he is ‘no sailor’ so had little chance of finding him.

I met David in the Panama Canal YC in 2008 and over the weeks of waiting for a transit date shared a beer with him on numerous occasions. The first thing you noticed about David was that he could be a bit unsteady on his feet. Given the beer was one US dollar a pop in the PCYC it was easy to jump to the obvious conclusion. In fact David had Parkinson’s Disease but was still determined to sail around the world. He had already been around the world by motorbike (an old BMW R60 as it happened) and was now doing it the ‘easy way’. To control his Parkinson’s he had a pacemaker installed in a bit of cutting edge surgery, not for his heart, but to send electrical signals to his brain to control the Parkinson’s.

David was a former Royal Marine who had worked in hostage negotiations for a British company Control Risks and had apparently been involved in a particularly dangerous operation in Columbia that was later made into a film, Proof of Life, starring Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. You never heard any of this from David and I only discovered his previous exploits life after his death. In Panama he was more concerned with the cat he had on board that appeared to be taking over the boat and running his life. And looking forward to the South Pacific.

The last time I saw him was in the Balboa Yacht Club. You went ashore in a bum-boat and at times the anchorage was so choppy getting on the bum-boat was tricky. David had obviously taken a tumble and had a huge gash on his calf. When I asked him if he was OK, in typical David fashion, he shrugged it off… ‘worse to come’ he said.



Nongsa Point Marina Google Earth


Nongsa Point Marina
To make any useful sense of this image you need to refer to the plan that shows reefs, channels, pontoon layout and islets!


Nongsa Point Marina

NOTE: This plan and info replaces earlier info in Indian Ocean Cruising Guide & Ocean Passages & Landfalls

The marina cannot be seen from the eastern approaches until close to, although you will see the pier off the Turi Resort. In the direct approaches to the marina there is a reef, Terumbu Babi, so yachts need to shape a course into the marina on either side of it. A small flag sometimes marks the reef (red 2009). When you are in the immediate approaches to the marina call up on VHF Ch 72 and they will send a boat out to guide you in. There are three sets of beacons showing the channel into the marina, although there are also beacons marking the channel down the Nongsa River to the ferry terminal.
VHF   Ch. 72
Data   90 berths. Visitors berths. Max LOA 18m. Depths 3-5m.
Berths Where directed on finger pontoons. Good shelter now the breakwater has been modified. There is a little wash from passing craft but nothing really discernible.
Authorities   Paperwork for clearing in or out can be processed here for a small fee. Notify the marina a day in advance of your departure date. Charge band 2.
Water and electricity at every berth. Showers and toilets. Wifi. Laundry. Swimming pool. Fuel quay. Mini-market. Restaurant and bar. For stocking up you need to take a taxi into Panas (around 45 minutes).
The marina is the most useful jumping off point for Singapore or Malaysia. The staff are friendly, the bar and restaurant is palatial, and apart from good shopping facilities, there is everything you need here for a few days R&R before setting off across the Singapore Strait. There are plans to extend the number of berths in the future by adding new pontoons.   E Tel +62-778 761333
Fax: +62-778 761330

This is a photo of the raw plan I send off to Imrays to turn into the plans you see in the books. The digital plan of Nongsa Point Marina will go up on the Imray website under supplements for Indian Ocean Cruising Guide (2nd ed) and Ocean Passages & Landfalls (2nd ed)

And here is the finished plan back from Imrays... good huh. A better resolution plan will go up on the Corrections page on the Imray web site.


Labuan Bajo (Flores)


Labuan Bajo on Flores

This small town sits on the northwest end of Flores and is a base for charter boats running to Rinca and Komodo to see the Komodo dragons and go diving on the excellent coral around the islands. It is a scruffy place that cruisers seem a bit ambivalent about, but we liked it. It has all the hustle and bustle of a trading port straight out of Conrad and ashore there are a couple of good restaurants with wifi as well.

In the anchorage there are a couple of ‘fixers’ who can get you diesel, mineral water in 19 litre ‘gallon’ bottles and will try their hardest to sell you wood carvings of the Komodo dragon. This makes it all pretty easy and although the shopping is not great, you can with a bit of persistence get the basics. For fresh fruit and veggie you need to go the main ‘pasar’ out of town (about 15 minutes by bemo I was told).

By the way don't rely on your electronic charts around here (or in lots of places in Indonesia) or you will end up on a reef like one boat did while we were here.



Superquake coming

The earthquake that shattered Padang on the west coast of Sumatra is just one in a series of earthquakes that are likely to hit Sumatra in the next 30 years. Professor Sieh at the Earth Directory in Singapore has been studying earthquakes and particularly paleoseismology, the study of geological changes that past earthquakes have made to crystal structure, landforms, geological layers, for over 30 years and is now concentrating on the Sunda fault line that runs down the west coast of Sumatra.

His predictions are that in the next few decades there will be another earthquake similar to the Boxing Day 2004 quake that produced the huge tsunami that swept over the coastlines of Sumatra, Thailand and Malaysia and as far west as Sri Lanka and India. This quake will be centred on the Mentawai Islands west of Sumatra and could be up to 8.8 on the Richter scale.

At sea most yachts won’t even know a tsunami has passed, but at depths of less than 10-20 metres the wave heaps up and in some anchorages and in marinas the damage is devastating. So if there is a tsunami warning get out to deeper water, at least 30 metres or more, and then when the danger has passed head back in to help with the tragic consequences.

Info from the Straits Times Wednesday Oct 14th.
Telaga Marina in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami


Dragon Country


Crocodile Bay

While Komodo is known as the place to go and see Komodo Dragons, Crocodile Creek on the small island of Rinca is often the favoured stop for cruising boats. It offers a secure anchorage in an enclosed inlet and directly ashore is the National Park office for the island. The Komodo National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and includes four islands of which Komodo and Rinca are the largest. Our guide told us that Rinca actually had the most dragons on it.

All visitors to the island must take a guide and you need to pay an entry fee and a local conservation fee (for upkeep of the trails, putting moorings in, finding sustainable alternatives for the fishermen, etc.), all in all around $US45 for the two of us. Our young guide, a student from Labuan Bajo working here to get money to go to university, was full of facts on the fauna and flora of the island, though he bemoaned the fact he had been here for two months with ‘no girls’ and had another two months to go.

Although I had seen pictures of the giant lizards, I somehow expected them to be a bit like fat over-sized iguanas. The size of these things is just frightening. Adults can grow up to 10ft long and they are bulky beasts with a prehistoric menace to them. Add to that the fact they can do 17 km/hr for short bursts and I began to feel distinctly uneasy. Our guide had a forked stick to keep them away, but given that he was five foot nothing and slightly built, I reckoned the dragons would find him nothing more than a snack with us as the main course. Apparently they bring down their prey (Timor deer, water buffalo, young komodo dragons, monkeys, scrub fowl) by biting them and tracking them as they die. The mouth of the Komodo Dragon is full of nasty bacteria and the prey dies from being infected, rather than the physical injury itself.

Young Komodo Dragons live in the trees for three years to avoid being eaten by their larger cousins. The only drawback to this is that sea eagles like to pick them off in the trees. The female lays a clutch of eggs in a hole in the ground and then guards them for around three months. The eggs don’t hatch until 8-9 months depending on the temperature and after that the young are fair game for the adults.
The Komodo Dragons are quite hard to see initially as they lie very still and their grey skin provides good camouflage in the dry landscape. On the guided walk you will likely see quite a few of the giant lizards as well as monkeys and the occasional water buffalo.

I asked our guide why the inlet we anchored in was called Crocodile Bay. He didn’t know, but assured me there were no crocodiles here. In this he is pretty much right as these islands have little in the way of creeks and rivers for the estuarine salt water crocodile to live in. On the other islands there are supposed to be saltwater crocodiles and they definitely inhabit Papua New Guinea, so it is worth taking a bit of care over where you go swimming.

Mr Engine



All over Indonesia you will hear the tuk-tuk-tuk of single cylinder diesels chugging about the anchorages or in more open water out fishing. In Labuan Bajo I wanted to take a look at one of these engines, so I asked Pakko what sort of engine he had.

‘Oh, Mr Engine, he very good’ Pakko replied.

‘Yeah, but who makes them? Are they made in Indonesia? China? What sort is it?’

‘Mr Engine’, Pakko replied.

Now I thought this was all very sweet calling it ‘Mr Engine’, but I wanted a bit more and motioned to him that I’d like to take a look at it.

I crawled under the top platform and there in front of me was: Mr Engine. That’s what the Chinese Jianghuai Engine Works calls this single lung diesel. They are air-cooled, dry exhaust, and mostly started by hand. There is no gearbox, just start it up and away you go. Simple, robust and easily repaired. That’s ‘Mr Engine’.

Pakko and crew in Labuan Bajo. The boat had some wonderful old teak planks used in the construction.


Nusa Tenggara - The Lesser Sunda Islands


Labuan Bajo

Nusa Tenggara: On the Ring of Fire

The Nusa Tenggara, literally the Southeast Islands, run pretty much from west to east with Bali at one end and West Timor at the other end. The chain includes a number of islands popular with cruisers including Flores, Rinca, Komodo, Sumbawa, Lombok and of course Bali. Although you can cruise from west to east, it is more easily done starting in the east and heading west. Most yachts will cruise the more sheltered north coasts of the islands where there are more anchorages than you could shake a 60 day social visa at.

Probably one of the most striking features of the islands is that there are volcanoes everywhere. Most are dormant, at least for now, but all around can be seen the characteristic cones and craters of volcanoes past and present. Some of them are alive and well, occasionally firing up at night, though most just let off a bit of steam from fumaroles on the side.

These volcanoes all sit on the western edge of what is called 'the ring of fire' in the Pacific, on a subduction zone where the Indo-Australian plate rubs up against the Eurasian plate causing earthquakes and letting magma bubble up to the surface and explode out of weak spots in the earth's crust, our volcanoes. Krakatoa in the Sunda Strait is the one we have all heard of and this massive eruption in 1883 destroyed most of the original island and flung so much dust into the air that world temperatures dropped for the ensuing two years of volcanic winter because the sun was partially obscured. This region is the most active in the entire ring of fire with more volcanic eruptions than anywhere else around the Pacific basin. I have to confess to some uneasiness as we sailed around Sangeang Island at dusk, which is just one gigantic volcano sitting in the Flores Sea, a little fumarole puffing away on its north side, as the insignificant speck of Skylax edged westwards on a fading breeze.

Sailing strategies

Yachts arriving from Kupang or Ambon and heading west will generally make for the northern coasts of the islands. From Kupang it is an overnighter up to Flores and then you can day-hop all the way along the northern coast. From Ambon yachts will usually come down to Alor and then proceed along the north coasts of Pantar, Adonara, Flores, Rinca, Komodo, Sumbawa and Lombok to Bali. Yachts heading east from Bali will head up to the north coast of Lombok and then potter along the island chain as far east as they intend to go, usually just to Komodo or Rinca before turning around to head back west.

Winds in the usual cruising season of August to October tend to be E-SE in the eastern islands and SW in the more westerly islands with a mixture of winds in the middle. Frequently the wind will start SE and clock around to the SW. There can also be a NE sea breeze blowing onshore in the afternoon. The high islands cause a lot of channelling and wind shadows so if you stay close to the land there will often be little or no breeze. Go a few miles offshore and there is usually wind, sometimes quite a lot.

There are anchorages all along the island chain and it is not difficult to look at the charts and then work out an itinerary. Nights along the northern coast are frequently calm so you can anchor in quite open roadsteads without any real problems. The holding also tends to be very good on mud, clay or sand.

Anchorage at Bari on Flores. Nights are usually calm.

Currents and tides

The narrow channels between the islands can give rise to very strong tidal races with overfalls and whirlpools, so getting the timing right so you go through on a favourable stream is important. In the Flores Strait between the eastern end of Flores and Adonara we did 10.4 knots over the ground with the engine on low revs. Friends on another boat who got it wrong went nowhere for two hours at max revs in the narrows at the northern end of the strait.

Working out the tides can be difficult with different regimes in different places. Most yachts now have tidal programmes that are accurate enough for the straits. The Admiralty tidal programme with tidal stream clocks seems to work particularly well here. In general the stream will run north with the flood and south with the ebb. To this general rule you need to add in data from other sources.

In the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok the stream runs south with the SW monsoon and north with the NE monsoon. Most yachts will be here when the stream is generally running south. This southern flow is attenuated by the tidal stream so that when the stream runs north the current is lessened. To complicate matters the prevailing SW wind kicks up a nasty chop in the strait.

In other places the tides are semi-diurnal and there can be two high tides together followed by two low tides. Some tides work on an approximate basis with moon-rise and moon-set which most GPS units will show. The Flores Strait is one of these with tides running north from moon-set to moon-rise and then reversing. It's all a messy business so take whatever advice you can.

Overfalls and whirlpools at the northern end of the Flores Strait

Fishing boats and FADs

There are fishing boats everywhere day and night. By day there are few problems, but at night the boats are more often than not, badly lit if lit at all. The fashion at the moment is for strobe lights (red, blue, white, green) positioned anywhere that can be found on the boat. Sometimes these won’t be turned on until you are close by.

At night there are fleets of boats with bright pressure lamps that can be seen from some distance and these are not too much of a problem as they rarely move when fishing for squid and whatever else is attracted to the bright lights.

If you see any boats at night it’s worth turning the tri-colour off and putting the sidelights on as well as a steaming light. The local boats have a problem estimating distance with a tri-colour and can be still gazing upwards at it as they get close to you.

In a lot of places makeshift Fish Attracting Devices (FADs) are employed. These are commonly a bamboo raft with some palm leaves on top and a bucket at either end to slow the rate of drift. In the morning and evening the ‘owner’ will come out and fish around the FAD. In places there will be a lot of them, a maze that you need to zigzag through. They are not lit and don’t show up on radar so at night are a real problem. I nearly hit one and only avoided it by a matter of feet when I spotted it’s dark outline just in front of me. Now you might think a bamboo raft wouldn't do much damage, but in SE Asia bamboo is frequently used to build scaffolding on construction sites, often up to 5 stories and more, so if it's that strong...I don't want to hit a bamboo FAD at speed.


There is a lot of shipping through the Indonesian archipelago and also a fair number of dumb barges towed by tugs. While most of them use the main shipping lanes marked on the charts through the archipelago, a fair number do not. AIS is invaluable for identifying and tracking ships and radar helps as well.

Fuel and water

In a lot of places you go you will often be greeted just after the anchor is down by a local fixer or maybe just a fisherman with time on his hands. They will supply diesel, water sometimes, fruit and veggie, and some local info on the area. All of the ones I came across were polite, their boat handling was generally OK, and their margins for fuel and water are reasonable. (Come on guys, don't be mean spirited, they have to make a living.)

We filtered all of our fuel, but it was often cleaner than fuel from Australia or NZ. Water is something of a problem although some of the resorts like Sea World on Flores say their water is good or in somewhere like Labuan Bajo the water comes in sealed 19 litre containers from the mineral water plant and tasted great (and it's halal!).

Pakko in Labuan Bajo with 19 litre jugs of water


In the larger centres like Kupang in western Timor, Larantuka on the east end of Flores and Labuan Bajo on the west end, and Lembar on Lombok you can find mini-markets which will have most of the basics. Only in Bali are there more western style goods.

In most of the anchorages you can get fruit and veggie and there will often be a simple shop ashore with basic goods.


There are basically no yacht facilities except in Bali where you can get spares sent to the Royal Bali YC or the marina. There are general hardware shops in the towns and these often carry basic bits for the local boats. There are also diesel mechanics used to working on fairly basic engines (see the section on 'Mr Engine') and workshops that can do basic metalwork and welding jobs.


Off the Beaten Path Dick Allen (printed privately). A useful guide to some of the anchorages in Indonesia.

101 Anchorages within the Indonesian Archipelago. Available in Australia and places like Bali.

South East Asia Cruising Guide Vol II. Stephen Davies & Elaine Morgan. Imray. Gives a wide brush stroke for cruising Indonesia.

Dance troupe at Sea World on Flores


Stove top pizza


This idea comes from Michael on B'Sherrit and I'm amazed and happy (I love pizza) that it's so easy and the pizzas taste just great. It uses tortilla bases that you can buy with long use-by dates so it's easy to keep a good supply of them on board. Try to get the thickest tortilla bases you can find.

Tortillas (two per person is about right for hungry people)

Olive oil

Pizza sauce or tomato paste

Grated cheese (cheddar types or whatever you have are fine, parmesan is great)

Toppings: salami, bacon, sliced toms, olives, anchovies, capers - choose your favourites or use whatever is on board.

Lay out the bases and dribble some olive oil over them. We use a little brush to cover the top of the base. Spread some pizza sauce on, add toppings of choice, and then grated cheese. Put the first one in a heated pan with a thick base and put the lid on. It should be cooked in 4-5 minutes, but just take a peek every now and again.

Eat pizza while the next one cooks.


For more recipes and tips for cooking on board go to Gourmets & Gourmands


Kupang annotated Google Earth


For more annotated Google Earth maps go HERE




Kupang from the anchorage

Kupang is a ramshackle city littered with rubbish where the whiff of sewerage lingers in the street. It is also delightfully un-touristy, vital and has a brilliant night market. From the anchorage you land on the beach and one of Napa’s ‘boys’ keeps an eye on the dinghy. If the afternoon sea breeze blows onshore it can be a bit wet landing or departing the beach, but there were always willing hands to drag the dinghy out or help launch it.

In town you can find most things you need and lots you don’t. The streets bustle with bemos and motorbikes buzzing about. There are only a handful of tourists here and that makes you a target for the half a dozen touts selling ikkats, the traditional hand woven cloth usually worn as a scarf when getting dressed up or as ceremonial adornments often signifying rank. Different islands have different patterns and the yarn is dyed with vegetable dyes, well at least that’s the story, and woven by hand on looms with stylised lizards, fish and birds and more abstract emblems. Lu bought a couple after three days of intermittent bargaining – they used to meet us on the beach when we came ashore.

Scenes from the night market

Internet access was relatively easy from the Café Lavalon where you can take your own laptop and get free wifi or use the owners computer if it is free. A bit further along from Lavalon is the main pasar, a big market with fresh fruit and veggie. At night the main street you come up to off the beach is barricaded off and becomes a night market with small stalls serving excellent food of all types. Mind you in most of them you eat with your fingers – right hand only OK.

Beach kids


Darwin to Kupang


Racing a local fishing boat into Kupang - we won, under sail.

This passage is traditionally a light wind or no wind passage so you need to hone those light weather sailing skills and top up the diesel tank in Darwin before you leave. Some yachts have spent a number of extra days out here, low on diesel and drifting around, because they didn’t believe you couldn’t sail the whole way with a bit of patience. In fact we sailed for around 60% of the time, but some of that was very slow with a lot of slatting sails which can really get on your nerves.

We didn’t pick up any wind over 10 knots until around 80 miles off Kupang when a southerly began to build, eventually getting up to 20 knots or so. It felt like half a gale after the preceding calms. We just managed to get into Kupang on the evening of the fourth day courtesy of a beautiful close reach up the southern hook that you round to head up to Kupang town. You wouldn’t want to do it in the dark as there are badly lit fishing boats everywhere and fish farms extending some distance out from the coast of Kupang. The latest ‘must have’ for smaller Indonesian fishing boats are strobe lights (all colours including white, blue, green and red) arranged in no particular order on the boat. They have range of less than half a mile and give you few clues about what the boat is doing.

Other boats on passage around the same time seemed to have less wind than we did. Boats going to Bali via Ashmore Reef commonly had to motor all the way to Ashmore Reef and only picked up some wind between Ashmore Reef and Bali. This was often a SW wind which mean they were fairly tight on the wind to get there. As Bob on Boomerang said: ‘I hate to turn that darned engine on but to get across here you need to burn up quite a few dinosaurs’.

We nosed into suitable depths for anchoring at dusk and had the customary bottle of wine to celebrate arriving, as it happened just off one of the mosques that had a sermon from the imam that lasted most of the evening – it was Ramadan. In the morning we called up Napa on Ch.16 and he suggested moving a bit further along off ‘his’ beach. Our anchorage was where ‘bad people’ are… So we pottered a little further up and anchored in 8 metres off Napa’s beach. The currents swoosh up and down here and you are lying to the current most of the time. You also get an onshore sea breeze at times that can be quite brisk, but the holding is excellent and we had trouble getting the anchor out.

Once the dinghy was in the water it was off to see Napa waiting on the beach and clear into Indonesia. Now I knew it was going to cost something extra for the customs ‘retirement fund’, I figured around $US100-$US150. So it was a bit of shock to find the cost was $US250, though the figure was confirmed by other boats and a couple of sympathetic locals I talked to. Anyway apart from handing over the money it was all pretty painless and our paperwork and passports were back the next day and we were cleared in … all the way to Nongsa Point Napa said. ‘You have any problems with customs, you just ring this number’, and he wrote down the phone number of the head honcho of customs in Kupang.


Indonesian Formalities...The CAIT business


Doing the paperwork in Napa's garden in Kupang

Before anyone gets to Indonesia the worries begin. Wherever two or three cruisers are gathered together there will anxious conversations about the latest rumours on the formalities involved for cruising Indonesia. In NZ, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia worried cruisers mutter amongst themselves and quiz any newly arrived yachts on the ‘Indonesia question’. ‘Who are using to get a CAIT?’ ‘What about this bond which I’ve heard can be XX% (insert any number here) of the boats value?’ ‘Social visa or not to social visa?’ The cruiser rumours rattling around the anchorages and over the ether and around internet forums are enough to make you miss Indonesia altogether. Which would be a pity.

Indonesia is a huge diverse country made up of hundreds of islands. Thousands if you count the smaller ones (some estimates run to 17,000 islands but that is counting some very small ones). The combination of the ethnic and cultural diversity through the islands into the Republic of Indonesia means that there is a lot of local variation between the major islands and the law-makers in Jakarta. The rules for yachts are that you need a CAIT before you enter Indonesia and a social visa if you are staying longer than 30 days but less than 60 days. To get a social visa you need a special sponsor letter.

All good and straightforward you might think. The problems in the past have arisen from a local interpretation of the rules that Jakarta makes by the officials (principally customs) in the other islands. This, shall we say, flexible interpretation has led to the ‘bond’ question, though in some ways that is a bit of a red herring that has been amplified out of all proportion by cruiser rumour and a bit of bad faith by cruisers who have cruised Indonesia in years past. Most of the rumours about the ‘bond’ question have come from Kupang where the whole problem has been magically solved with a contribution to the ‘retirement fund’ for customs officers. More on that later.

Its important to know that, to my knowledge, not one yacht has had to pay the temporary import bond (variously calculated at 20/30/40/50% of the boats value) which is then repaid when you leave Indonesia. This bond is ONLY payable after a yacht has been continuously in Indonesia for one year.

To get a CAIT realistically you need an agent. We used Rachel who actually uses Lytha in Jakarta to get the CAIT. When Rachel and her family were not off cruising she answered any enquiries promptly although in fact you can find most answers to your questions on her website:

In Rachel’s absence Lytha answered questions and replied quickly and comprehensively. There are other agents as well and you can pretty quickly find them with a quick search on the internet. Rachel’s blogspot has probably the best information on Indonesian regulations and the ins and outs of cruising the archipelago and should be your first stop when researching what is going on in Indonesia.


Getting a CAIT

The procedure for getting a CAIT goes something like this…

  • You need to apply at least a month and preferably two months before you plan to sail into Indonesian waters.
  • You need to pick up the original CAIT somewhere it can be posted or couriered to. Most agents will email you a digital scan of the CAIT, but you still need the original. Darwin is by far the best option. The staff in the Indonesian Consulate here are used to holding a CAIT for yachts until you arrive and you can also get a social visa here with your sponsor letter which will arrive with the CAIT. There have been problems getting the CAIT sent to your arrival port in Indonesia with some messy consequences. You could also get the CAIT sent to somewhere like Cairns, Thursday Island or Gove.
  • The details you need to put on your CAIT will be provided by your agent. Rachel or Lytha will tell you what they need for the CAIT. Most of the info is to do with crew, passport numbers, boat details including registration number and port, insurance, dimensions and tonnage etc. and all the islands/ports you intend to visit in Indonesia. It’s best to put as many islands and ports as possible. It doesn’t matter if you don’t visit them all, but it can matter if you visit a port not listed on your CAIT.
  • You then send all these details off to your agent along with the CAIT fee and the agents fee including any costs for postage or a courier. In total it cost us $US280 plus $US20 to post the CAIT and sponsorship letter to Darwin (2009). For some reason Western Union seems a favoured way of sending money.
  • You collect the CAIT at whatever address you have had it posted to or at the port of entry in Indonesia if you have decided to go down that route. The CAIT is valid for 90 days from the DATE OF ISSUE. The social visa is valid for 60 days from your first port of entry in Indonesia. The social visa cost $US60 per person in Darwin (2009). You can obtain a normal tourist visa on arrival in Indonesia valid for 30 days. This normally costs $US25 though that depends on where you get it.


Clearing into Indonesia

There are three ports of entry that are popular with cruising yachts. There are more, but these three are the ones commonly used when on passage from Australia and Papua New Guinea/Lousiades to Indonesia.


The Sail Indonesia Rally (formerly the Darwin to Ambon Rally) goes direct from Darwin to Ambon. This is a passage of nearly 600 miles. The rally organisers process all the paperwork for the CAIT and social visa as part of the fee for the rally ($Au500 in 2009). The rally leaves Darwin around mid-July so you need to get a wiggle on to get there in time if you are coming from NZ or the more easterly islands in the South Pacific.

In 2009 there were 130 odd boats in the rally so not surprisingly clearing into Ambon took around three days for the over-pressed officials in Ambon. As the rally progresses there are similar traffic jams at any other ports where large numbers of rally boats arrive at the same time. For those who like cruising in company and want to take any hassle out of getting a CAIT then this is the way to go.

You don’t have to be on the rally to clear into Indonesia in Ambon and to date this has been relatively hassle free for individual cruising boats at a cost of around $US5.


From Darwin to Bali is around 950 miles. Yachts will often break the passage with a stop at Ashmore Reef. Yachts go to Benoa, either to Bali Marina or to the moorings off the Royal Bali YC. Here you can get cleared in for around $US50 or do it yourself. Half a dozen yachts I know of have cleared themselves in at Denpassar with no hassle, no mention of the bond, for a total cost of around $US5. Despite reports of the ‘bond’ issue here, in 2009 no yachts I know of had a problem here. There has been some muttering about bad faith and conspiracy theories by websites that have lumped Bali in with Kupang as a port of entry where 'the bond' issue is raised. To date it has NOT.


From Darwin to Kupang is around 460 miles. This used to be the popular route until there were ‘problems’ with the local officials for clearing in here. Yachts still use Kupang as we did although you must be prepared to pay the local ‘tax’ to customs. This is facilitated through Napa at Kupang Yacht Service, the most used agent here, and basically you hand your papers and passports over to him, pay $US250, the ‘tax’ for customs, and get your paperwork back some time later.

Kupang Yacht Service Napa Rachman When you are off Kupang town just call him on VHF Ch 16.

If you don’t want to pay the tax then be prepared for customs to start quizzing you about the value of your boat and requesting some fairly large percentage of that value to be lodged with a bank as the ‘temporary importation bond’. I will reiterate here that no boats I know of have paid the bond and all choose, for pretty obvious reasons, to cough up the $US250. Some boats have spent days trying to do it themselves, arguing about the bond, and eventually going to Napa and coughing up the $US250.

There have been a number of yachts on the way to Bali and running low on fuel that have stopped at Kupang to get fuel. This entails a small ‘fee’, usually around $US50, and the yachts have then continued on to Bali where they have cleared in, probably without mentioning the unscheduled stop at Kupang.


This can all change in subsequent years, but I do counsel caution on advice and paranoia that has spread like wildfire around various internet sites. I talked to Aussie Dean in Nongsa Point who has been cruising these waters from Darwin for some 20 years. 'Its always been like this', he said, ' some places you need to pay out a little local tax, some years you don't, but hey, none of us should be too precious about cruising around in what to the locals are luxury items'.

So relax a little. And maybe you need to cough up a bit, maybe you don't. It's a great country, lovely people, for most of us a once in a lifetime experience. Don't sour it with your own mean minded boat economics.

After the Port of Entry

Most yachts will not have to show anyone the CAIT if they do not go to any other large ports with harbour officials. We didn’t show anyone the CAIT until we went into Nongsa Point Marina to clear out of Indonesia for Singapore. Other yachts that have been in larger ports have had to go to the harbourmaster and do some paperwork. In a few cases and a few places here have been requests for ‘fees’ of one sort or another (i.e. ‘retirement funds’), but most of these have been resisted.

None of the above should be read as some sort of judgmental tirade against cruising in Indonesia. It is not intended to be. Local corruption is a fact that all Indonesians have to live with and the actions of corrupt officials affects all in Indonesia. And they have to live there all the time while we are just passing through. Witness the following extract from the Straits Times on the devastating earthquake in Padang in Sumatra…

The government has pledged six trillion rupiah (S$892.4 million) for reconstruction efforts, but many fear the money too will be lost to corruption as it flows through the local government… "It gets thinner and thinner and then just the mouse’s tail comes out the bottom. That’s Indonesia," said housewife …who lives on the outskirts of Padang.

This is an amazing country to cruise peopled by softly spoken and generous individuals (with only a few exceptions including customs officials). The paperwork may be a bit of a hassle, (though it is really not that bad), but that should not deter you from cruising this huge archipelago of amazing islands.

Proa with crab claw sail... these things just fly with a bit of breeze.


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