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Indonesia "Loop" from Langkawi, Malaysia

By Sue Richards — last modified Feb 11, 2013 03:22 PM
Thank you to all the cruisers who have helped with advice and recommendations.

Published: 2013-01-11 00:00:00
Topics: Java Sea , Malay Archipelago
Countries: Indonesia , Malaysia

Question
From Christoph, sv BARBIDUR

We are a family with two children and a 43 ft sloop, currently on the hard in Langkawi on the Malaysian West coast while we have returned to work and preschool. We are considering to tour Indonesia starting any time in the next two years, clock- or counterclockwise, returning to Langkawi.

What is in your opinion the best timing and route to sail a loop through Indonesia including optionally Singapore, Malaysian east coast, north coast of Borneo, Sulawesi, Molukkas, Flores, Lombok, Bali? We are also pondering to sail up or down the West coast of Sumatra and reach Bali through the Sunda Straight or following the south coast of Java, a route on which we could not get hold of any information or experience so far.

We are ready and expecting to motorsail but of course want to avoid adverse and strong winds & seas as far as possible.

Peter and Cheryl Ainsworth of SY Stolen Kiss offer their advice.
As with any passage, the weather can make a huge difference. The passages you have mentioned would be best undertaken in the right monsoon period. Two excellent sites for weather in this region are Singapore weather portal (http://www.weather.gov.sg/wip/web/Marine) along with the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (www.bom.gov.au) give fantastic weather information of the area. Of course there are many other sources of weather. We now like to use Passage Weather, although the above sites and weather access on SailMail was more than enough when we were sailing throughout SE Asia.
There are now two rallies that depart from Australia which provide a lot of information regarding passages other yachts are taking and information on anchorages.
http://fremantlebali.com.au/beyond-bali/
The NE Monsoon (Northern Hemisphere) from Nov/Dec through to April/May is the dry season for Phuket, West Coast Malaysia (Singapore to Langkawi via Malaccan Straits). However this is the wet season for the east coast of Malaysia, so this area is best cruised in the SW Monsoon, from January through to April. The monsoons may be early or late each season, so its best to watch the weather patterns and plan your departure accordingly.
The SE Monsoon, from April/May through to Oct/Nov is the best season to cruise from Australia through to Singapore via Indonesia, from Sulawesi, down to Flores, along to Bali, and up to Southern Borneo (Kalimantan). It is also the season to cruise the southern side of Sumatera, along the Mentawi Islands.
Sunda Strait can be difficult in strong SE winds with a large swell running. Be aware that a strong High pressure ridging over central Australia during the SE Monsoon feeds the monsoon and strengthens the SE winds between Australia and Indonesia. Seas can get pretty nasty when this happens. The south coast  of Java can be pretty wild for this reason and not many yachts cruise this coast.
Most yachts depart Singapore in January and cross to the west coast of Borneo and make their way up to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. You can still get some wet squally winds coming off the land along this coast, but it is their dry season. January through to April is the best season to cruise this part of Borneo. (SW Monsoon).
Our blog www.yachtstolenkiss.blogspot.com has information regarding the areas in SE Asia we cruised for some years. We feel that SE Asia offers by far some of the best cruising grounds in the world. Our friends on the yacht Carillon www.yachtcarillon.net have also cruised this area extensively and have some valuable information to offer.
Once you get your head around the timing of the monsoons and watch weather patterns, your chosen route becomes clear. Avoiding the Malaccan Straits during the SW Monsoon decreases your chances of being hit by lightening as this is one area in the world which has the most lightening strikes.
Hope this helps.
Vic Martin passes on what he knows about this area.
My experience covers Darwin to Langkawi then Langkawi to Kudat.

Most people seem to leave Darwin in August http://www.darwinambonrace.com.au/. The main advantage seems to be traveling in company but crowded anchorages and dragging boats seem to be problem. This gets them up to Singapore by November.

We sailed later in September, mainly because this was a convenient time for us. There were no weather problems and not a lot of wind.

I met one fellow who did the rally in 2010 and lost his mast in the Banda sea so it can get windy at this time (July-August). There is a lot of info available on the rally if they google sailing blogs.

Going solo is no problem. Lytha at cait@indo.net.id is very efficient as far as obtaining a CAIT is concerned and from memory my last one arrived in less than two weeks. Our Visas were issued on the same day in Darwin at the Indonesian Embassy. Clearing out of Darwin was painless.

We sailed from Singapore to Langkawi between November and April without incident. However Malacca Strait is very busy and we mostly traveled just outside the main shipping lane.

I left Langkawi, returning down Malacca Strait in late April, a little later than I wanted.There were daily storms. Not until coming into Singapore did I finally get caught. It is a toss up whether you anchor overnight between Port Dickson and Singapore but the 'Sumatras' were certainly around and it is luck whether you get caught or not.Going up and down the strait we did overnight trips for this leg.

In May, 2 'Sumatras' caught me as I traversed Singapore. One was while at anchor and not pleasant but that is another story.

Crossing the South China sea to Santubong in Sarawak at that time was windless. Thirty minutes after dropping anchor a big storm saw at least one yacht drag badly.

I installed an AIS transponder while at Danga Bay (across from Singapore). It was a major help and I would highly recommend them in these waters even above radar. The Singapore water police did not bother shadowing my journey around the island and once out in the shipping lanes the large ships would alter course long before they were a worry and mainly pass behind. This only left barges and fishing boats to worry about.

May, up the west coast of Borneo was fairly easy. However by the time we arrived at Kota Kinabalu the SW Monsoon was well underway and powerful storms started to be generated by low pressures and typhoons in the Philippines. I learned this the hard way.

My boat is currently on the hard at Kudat. I am expecting to return the end of February.

My favourite blog for this area is http://www.dellandpeter.com/

There is useful info about this the other areas  at
http://yachterica.blogspot.com.au/ and http://wingssail.blogspot.com.au/

Hope this helps.
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