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Cruising Report Darwin to Bali to Singapore to Langkawi

By doina — last modified Jan 24, 2006 02:03 PM

Published: 2006-01-24 14:03:25
Countries: Indonesia , Malaysia

Taraipo has sailed 6000 miles this year from NZ via Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, Indonesia & Singapore to Malaysia. She is now licking her wounds in the Langkawi archipelago, after another surprisingly arduous passage, beginning in Darwin with 3 weeks of blazing sun, no wind and oily calm in the Timor Sea. Eventually the spectacular Indonesion islands lifted from the heat, still no real wind and lots of current, so strong that we had great difficulty in reaching Bali - the Jawa Sea exits south, through the islands into the Timor Sea. Bali was a disappointment, we were obliged to bargain with the authorities (Navy, Immigration, Customs and Harbour Master) in order to avoid buying a $350 cruising permit. We paid a $50 backhander to the Navy officer for an "emergency stopover" of 3 nights, in a run down "International Marina" It was nevertheless a good "pit stop" for us after 1000 miles we filled up with fresh (but warm) water, cheap diesel (40 litres - half a tank) and cheap fresh and tinned food at the Makro!! Cash & Carry. All cars and taxis entering are inspected for bombs underneath with mirrors on trollies, a scary reminder that suicide bombers are nearby - every street cafe, shop, ofice, marina had new goodwill flowers placed daily in each entrance.

We had a great sail out of Bali, got the tides right and it seemed that the long awaited NE Monsoon Winds were here to stay. We sailed through hundreds of claw sailed spiderlike trimarans fishing the NE corner of Bali - truly amazing craft, with a centre hull 5 metres long and bamboo outriggers, fast and seaworthy working from a lee shore.

The "Monsoon" did not last, we were still in the transition period from SW to NE Monsoon tho we already had the current against us and what wind there was - against. It was a long 1000 miles to Singapore. The Java Sea is very shallow and we experienced no swell. But it is a very busy place, 25 million people live on Java and all need feeding. THe first night out of Bali, Taraipo was tearing through what assumed was a new oilfield - lots of static bright green and orange lights, then one we had passed gave chase... nightmare, they are fishing boats using arc lights to attract the fish. Every night there were always at least 20 fishing boats around our horizon - they seemed to sense our foreigness and move off our track as we approached, at dawn they melted away so small and so distant were they. A vivid recollection - having passed between two unlit reefs on GPS only, a dodgy practice, with dawn breaking, we hit a rain squall, suddenly out of the murk a 50' un-painted fishing boat, was charging at us, he must have had us on radar, he managed to steer clear, we are a sitting duck in those situations and grateful to experienced lookouts on approaching vessels.

Taraipo has two radar reflectors, one at the masthead and the other on the rudder head to ensure we give a good echo. For 40 days and nights in the worlds busiest shipping lanes we never had to take avoiding action and only felt really threatened by a ship and once by a tug with a long tow in the Inshore Traffic Zone of a T.S.S. There is a lot of tug traffic in the Java sea and in the Malacca Straits towing mostly lighters but we have been chased by a floating crane and followed a beautiful lit oil rig one moonlit night. The weather is very squally and impossible to predict. We nearly had an epic crossing of the Singapore Straits (mega ore carriers passing every 10 minutes in both directions) in a zero vis rain squall. The second big hit was near Melaka, that one split our mainsail from leech to luff. Next day our valiant 25 year old diesel gave up the ghost, holding us against the diurnal current (12 miles forward -12 miles back!). So Nicole set to with palm and needle - it took us a day to get back to full sail power - but it took a long, long time to get to Langakwi Peninsular in Northern Malaysia.

The interpretation of ship light regulations gets worse as the years go by. Tugs often do not light their tows, fishing boats rarely show port and starboard lights and often exhibit flashing red, amber or green lights, big ships now have two orange arc lights on the stern to ward off pirates, and yachtsmen exhibit flashing red lights at anchor - can be unnervingly difficult to interpret at times.

John Jameson December 2005

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