Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Kumai to Belitung

3 – 6 October 2011
We headed down the river with the outgoing tide about lunch time. The plan was to move down the narrow channel in good light and anchor in a protected spot just inside the mouth of the river before having an early meal and getting some sleep. As usual we found ourselves dodging river traffic including tugs towing huge barges. We would then get under way for our next stop on the island of Belitung at midnight. This would give us one and a half nights and two full days at sea and allow us to reach port in the daylight on the afternoon of the second day.

Where the rainforests are going.
Again Will had explained all the thinking behind his passage plan to us including his intention to opt for the safer route avoiding a large series of shallows on the more direct line. The problem with sand shallows is the sand banks can move over time and when you consider the area was probably most recently charted mid last century, passing through the potential problem area at night would not be ideal.
The best part of a good plan is its ability to be changed as required and as our alarm woke us at 23.45 Will met us in the salon and informed us we could go back to bed. He’d been laying in his bunk much of the night pondering on an out of the ordinary noise he’d been hearing and stronger than usual odour when the forward head was used and came to realise that we had another plumbing issue. This time it was the pump that empties the forward grey water holding tank, that is everything from our wash basin and, yes, the yucky stuff from our head. Although we’d run the pump to empty the tank while at sea just before we reached Kumai, it had obviously failed to pump out because the sound Will could hear was a full tank. Rather than try to work on the problem while underway we would stay put and fix it at anchor.
So in the morning, for the second time in two days, Will donned the long rubber gloves and sweated his tail off below fixing a literally shitty problem. The pump that required attention was in a confined space with only room for one so, much as we would of loved to have helped, we were forced to simply stay topside out of the way. Oh the joys of boat ownership. 
Problem fixed, our passage plan was modified accordingly. We now cleared the river mouth and set sail down the Kalimantan coast. This area was included in the Tanjang National Park zone but far from being dense rain forest was obviously previously cleared land that was in the early stages of recovery. Unfortunately that recovery was suffering a setback in front of our eyes with three very major fires burning wildly and filling the sky with acrid smoke well out to sea. Hopefully in time the jungle to the north will be able to reclaim this southern area and provide a much larger habitat for our orang-utan friends.
By late afternoon we’d travelled far enough south to clear the worst of the smoke and were able to anchor off the beach for a fantastic meal of bbq garlic prawns whipped up by Karen. We were again planning a midnight departure but being that bit closer to our destination we could expect an earlier arrival into Belitung on day two.
Once again our alarm sounded at 23.45 and it was all hands on deck to raise the anchor and get under way. With just a modest breeze from the stern quarter we began motor-sailing with just mizzen and genoa and then left Will to it for his midnight to three watch.
It’s amazing how many times the old saying ‘Bad things happen in threes’ comes true. Within an hour of climbing back into our bunk we awoke to the sound of the engine stopping and then Will unsuccessfully trying to refire it. After four or five attempts it was obvious Atlantia was throwing up number three in its little set of problems. Rob headed topside and took over the helm while Will headed into the engine room to investigate. It was pretty obvious the  normally bullet proof, 130 horsepower Ford six cylinder  was not getting fuel and with near full tanks the first likely culprit was the fuel filter. It’s fair to say that while diesel in Indonesia is incredibly cheap at about 50c a litre, much of it is also far from premium quality with water and other contaminants common. We do filter all fuel as it goes into the tanks but it’s difficult to catch everything.
Sure enough, working in a rolling stern quarter sea, down below in a very hot, stuffy and smelly engine room, Will found the filter well and truly clogged and set about cleaning everything out before reassembly and hopefully, refiring the engine. Rob meanwhile was enjoying some old fashioned hand steering and a lovely sail through the local fishing fleet. Who says the crew get all the crappy jobs? Sorry Will.
Once there was fuel coming through the lines, the faithful Ford proved very easy to get going again so Rob was able to head back to his bunk – until Will’s revenge. What seemed like two minutes later there was shout from above, ‘It’s three o’clock. Your watch. I’m going to bed.’ Not that Will didn’t definitely deserve his sack time after copping three of the worst jobs you can face on a boat all in under 76 hours. 
However the good news was ‘Three down none to go’ as Atalantia was totally problem free for the rest of the passage. Once more we experienced a mix of motor-sailing interspersed with the pleasure of turning off the engine and enjoying the relative quiet when the wind co-operated.  Night watches were pleasantly uneventful and we were able to enjoy each other’s company while all sharing duties during the daylight hours.
One area not being shared was the cooking. Karen had excelled so much in the culinary delights department that neither Will or Rob were keen to try and match her prowess. Scrambled eggs on toast from Rob definitely would not have stacked up with her mackerel steaks in ginger sauce and certainly would not have got close to the bbq stuffed squid or even the fabulous beef curry. On a yacht, when in the morning a voice from below calls out ‘What would you like in your omelette this morning?’ you know you’ve got it good.
It's not always plain sailing.

We approached the island of Belitung right on cue soon after first light and were looking forward to a pleasant three or four hour cruise around the coast to our anchorage when a small black cloud appeared on the horizon. We tracked the squall on the radar and you would of thought it had missile lock on Atlantia as it grew darker and made a beeline for us. It soon parked directly overhead and let go with lightning, thunder heavy rain and swirling winds whipping up the sea state. The thunderhead was only about two nautical miles across but was heading in exactly the same direction as us at only about two or three knots faster. As a result it hung around the boat for quite a while and at least Atlantia’s  topsides got a much appreciated, very good freshwater rinse.
Beautiful Belitung
We arrived at Tanjung Kelayang  Beach, Belitung to discover the most beautiful anchorage of our whole Indonesian odyssey. A fine white sand bottom interspersed with patches of vibrantly coloured live coral all clearly visible through crystal clear water. It was well protected by small, coconut palm and thick jungle covered  islands and a series of spectacular rock formations rising high out of the turquoise water.
Being amongst the first of the rally boats to arrive we were able to drop anchor in the sand fairly close to shore and fall back over a beautiful patch of coral inhabited by brightly coloured fish and, much to our delight, a fair number of very large turtles. Our first impressions of Tanjung Kelayang could not possibly have been more positive and we fervently hoped they would stay that way when we went ashore.
Water so clear we could clearly see the coral six metres down

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