Sailing Story - Karimata Islands - Sailing To Singapore

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    Karimata Islands,
    Sailing To Singapore

Dodging Yachts and Ships
    We had a fantastic sail from the Kumai River, Kalimantan, through to the Karimata Islands, Indonesia.

    The water is very shallow off this coast and many opt to head a long way south to avoid the worst of it but we decided to go for it through a narrow channel which would save us a lot of time.

A few hours out and we noticed three boats behind us which was a novelty as we had rarely on the trip travelled in company, at least since leaving Babar Island in eastern Indonesia.

One was a large ketch which powered along north of us under motor only and the others had all sails up like we did however we had by this stage only a tiny mainsail as the others had blown out on the way here.
    Mike was pleased that they couldn’t catch us, as Whimoway weighs 30 tonne and by all accounts is not a racer!

    They were of course gaining on us but ever so slowly so as to make us proud of our darling old girl!

    Very late that night Mike woke me up saying “check this idiot out” and here was one of those yachts coming straight towards us honestly so close that our torch when lit, lit up his whole boat. Mike fired the motor and veered off whilst I tried to contact them by radio with words like “are you awake!” and “wake up!” but to no avail.

    This went on for 15 minutes or so until I shone the torch again which got a returning torch flash as a response then they turned and sped off eventually crossing our bow and continued on their merry way south around the shoals.

    We laughed because after all these miles and all the Indonesian boats we were supposed to be worried about colliding with, we nearly get hit by a westerner!

No problems with the shoals and continued on to Seratu Island in the Karimata group where many hours later two other boats arrived and of course we recognised one because I could have almost boarded her the night before!

Falling asleep is quite common for sailors but mainly those who are single-handed. We heard on the yachty grapevine of two incidents involving yachts on the big rally from Darwin to Thailand. One hit a fishing boat in the Malacca straights and sunk it and they were quickly escorted to Langkawi to face justice!

    Another was spotted by a big tanker, which not only slowed down, but also then had torches blazing and people yelling to try and wake him up but he still collided and is apparently up here somewhere we hear, probably looking for a shipwright to replace his bowsprit!

    A book written in the 70’s by a round the worlder tells the tale of a cargo ship pulling into port and those on land called out “what have you got there” and they were horrified to see over the bow a mast and rigging caught on their anchor! Scary.

    Seratu Island was another picture postcard anchorage with a little fresh water stream and coral and friendly fisherman who shared their catch in exchange for some tobacco.

    The Lingga Island group was next and once again we sailed through avenues of cumi cumi boats. We had a few close or should I say confusing moments with some big ships but we were by now getting better at the long hauls, or Mike was to be fair! I do love my sleep!

    We pulled in just on the far south of the island and anchored in shallow water with a sand bottom in between two bamboo fish traps.

    These structures dot the whole coastline as far as one can see and somehow they manage to imbed the poles deep into the sand then they lower the net and raise it again with a pulley system.

    Late that night Mike saw flames and sparks and thought one was burning down but he was just emptying his stove!

The water was still clear here but we didn’t stay as we had many more miles to go and we were running out of visa time.

We headed north staying close to the coast and found ourselves in shallow water amid heaps of islands with fish traps and nets everywhere of course, and it was through here that we crossed the equator.

We didn't dress up as is the tradition but jumped off the boat holding on to a rope and swam across (so to speak) then opened the champagne saved for the occasion.

At Kentar Island the villagers came aboard and showed us how to cook dried squid, it's like squid chips, quite different!

We then headed for Batam Island but went west up a side channel used by ferries as we were on the lookout for a town which may have had a Harbour Master etc to check out as we didn't want to go the usual way which is via a marina and costs the earth.

We chose Batuampar, which is a commercial port full of rusty old and new vessels from everywhere and diesel barges and it stunk pretty bad.

Mike visited the diesel barge and was warned of thieves at night then he proceeded into town and after hiring a guy to ride him around he finally got us stamped out, they were all very confused that we weren't in the marina but helped us all the same.

We stayed the night but chose to sleep on deck and in the middle of the night we awoke and were laughing about something when we heard a boat very near to us which scuttled off in the dark!

We were sure they were up to no good and as we found out later, this port is rife with pirates but it is interesting to note that their ill intent was disrupted by something as simple as laughter, thus we have concluded that everybody's journey through this area is their own and we are constantly grateful for our good fortune.

So that was it for Indonesia for a time anyway, we had a great but exhausting journey but were looking forward to seeing Singapore.

Map Of Karimata Islands, Sailing To Singapore