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Bali to Singapore in the transition season November 2014

By Susan Bright — last modified Dec 03, 2014 02:17 PM
We've just done a passage from Bali to near Singapore and thought the weather we experienced might provide useful information for others. I couldn't find anything on it when we were planning the passage.

Published: 2014-12-03 00:00:00
Topics: Java Sea
Countries: Indonesia , Singapore

We were delayed in Bali, making repairs to the boat, and were getting worried about the change in monsoons. We wanted to catch up with the Sail2Indonesia rally and we had plans for spending time in Malaysia too. Traditionally the Darwin – Singapore rally boats all arrive at the end of October and although the new Sail2Indonesia Rally would not arrive until the end of November, most of the distance would be covered by early November. So there isn't much blog information available about the conditions to expect at this time of year. Also, we weren't sure whether the NW monsoon would just start with a bang or would begin fitfully.

We watched the forecasts carefully and up until the beginning of November, Passage Weather was forecasting 10 – 15 knots SE in the Java Sea. The boats ahead of us on the rally had had mixed fortunes with the wind. Those who planned their passages around it, found they were able to sail most of the way to Belitung in late October but others motor-sailed for much of it. We expected to sail some of every day and were prepared for squalls and rain. We planned just one stop, at Balwean island, on our route between Bali and Kentar Island in the Lingga Group. This would get us north as quickly as possible.

We left Bali with bright sunshine on 6th November and had either absolutely no wind or 5 knots from astern (cancelling out the cooling, apparent breeze). We motored for 50 hours solid.

After Bawean island we had complete cloud cover until we reached the Karimata Strait and we could see lightening flashing in the distance. We had occasional squalls but they didn't pack much wind and not a huge amount of rain either. We came across an enormous number of fishing boats with super bright lights in the SE entrance to the straits. Fortunately they didn't move about much so it was possible to pick a dark area between sections of them and get through.

We only managed to sail 29 miles on this part of the passage (in 2.5 days) and some of that at 2.5 knots. To say the sea was glassy would have been an understatement! Passage Weather was forecasting zero wind for the South China Sea, so we expected more of the same for the next stage. Instead of continuing to Lingga, we detoured to Belitung to pick up more fuel.

We managed to increase our sailing hours by another 3 miles (in 4 hours) on this leg and were then heading north. A light headwind of only 5 knots managed to kick up a slight chop in the shallow sea and this, combined with an adverse current of 1 knot, slowed our speed considerably. We motored for this entire section.

We had one spectacular squall at the southern end of Lingga island: lightening strikes about 600 m from the boat and the most torrential rain ever. The wind only picked up to about 20 knots though. Apart from that, we just had rain showers.

In summary: If you need to get north in November, do it as early as you can and expect to motor a lot of miles. We did 962 miles under engine. It would be a very bad idea to try it without a reliable motor. We're not fussy with wind; we'll take anything we can and will sail at less than 2 knots to save fuel. When we say there was no wind, there really was NONE.

On a positive note, the Java Sea was pancake flat, so the motoring was easy and the squalls we experienced were not severe. Luckily the NW monsoon kept away.

Susan Bright
SY Yindee Plus

http://www.yindeeplus.net/Yindee_Plus/Welcome.html
The Bright family on their cutter-rigged sloop Yindee Plus began their extended cruising from the UK in 2008. Their blog has lots of interesting reports and twin sons Sid and Wilf have their own blogs also.

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