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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
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
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
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
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
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