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2015 Sail2Indonesia Rally Report

By A number of cruisers who took part in the rally have responded to the first report by Anthony Swanston, and the ICA have also commented. — last modified Mar 28, 2016 08:09 AM

Published: 2016-02-25 00:00:00
Topics: Rallies
Countries: Indonesia , Australia

This first report from Rally participant Anthony Swanston - January 17th 2016.
See the ICA's response to this report further down, plus comments from other cruisers who took part in the rally.


ICA is the rally organiser, but after the initial seminars in Cairns they have no visible input as  all day to day work is handed over to Raymond Lesmana, who is employed by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism.  There were two days of seminars; the information disseminated could have been done in one day.  The seminars were, at best, shambolic.

A hardback book detailed all the rally stops.  It was written by somebody whose English was very poor.  Some parts were unintelligable.  The waypoints were inaccurate, in one case more than 2.3 nm wrong.

Absolutely no pilotage notes were provided even for channels where the tide ran at more than four knots.

All in all this was a "do it yourself" rally in more ways than one.


At the seminars Raymond showed a smiling picture of himself holding a VHF. "I will be on every beach waiting for you.  Just call me on the radio and I will solve any problems you have."   At NO time did Raymond have a VHF.  He attended fewer that half the rally stops.  At our initial clear in at Debut he arrived three days late and the clear in can best be described as choas.

At out first visa extension in Maumere, he submitted incorrect paperwork to immigration and knowing it was wrong, nonetheless, left the island leaving the fleet to resolve issues with immigration.  Some boats took 10 days to get their extension.

Clearing out of Tanjung Pinang, Raymond gave us totally wrong information about the order in which we should visit the various offices.  He said it was better we went without him.  When we ourselves got the office order correct the Port Captain refused to deal directly with us saying our agent had to be present.  Clearly Raymond had done no work in researching or preparing for our clear out.  It took an average of one and a half frustrating days to clear out.

He did sort some problems.  For example he organised my medivac when bitten by a spider, but he also took credit for everything which went well (including events where he had had no input) and blamed Jakarta for everything that went wrong.


Most of the stops were very remote which was good, but perhaps a few stops where there was more civilisation would have helped wth provisioning, especially alcohol.

There was frequently a lack of organisation ashore, for example, with dinghy security.

Although it was known that the forest fire smoke would make some of the destinations unviable, there was no Plan B except "miss them out and stay longer in the next place."


These were of very mixed quality.  Some were good, indeed excellent, and some were dreadful with no way of knowing in advance. ICA / Raymond seemed to have no input as to what was happening.  At most of them we endured long speeches in Indonesian.  It was clear that the officials had organised the events for themselves and that we were an excuse to fund them.  At one event I counted officials in 17 different uniforms all of whom arrived one hour late.  This is officialdom gone mad.

At another event we were put into trucks which sat for no reason for 30 minutes, left and then went for fuel.  The journey on unmade roads took two hours followed by a (mostly) dangerous boat journey to a litter strewn beach, one and a half hours of speeches in Indonesian and then the horrible journey back home including another fuel stop.


A big feature of the rally is the people you meet and the friendships forged, but, as I have already said, this was a do-it-yourself rally with shared skills being particularly helpful.  Everybody pitches in to help when boats catch fishing nets, go aground,  break engines or break moorings as one did at Medana.  There was great help with all sorts of medical problems which are inevitable on a rally of this nature.  Looking back, some people would have been in serious trouble without the fleet support, especially in the more remote anchorages where we spent most of our time.

Language would also have been a problem without the support of the local tourism offices, which looked after us as we were part of the rally.  That same support may not have been as readily available for non-rally cruisers.

As you would expect we were a very mixed bunch, but everybody got on well and we did have great fun with many shared experiences.

Would I do the rally again? Yes; but only if I had to pass through Indonesia again and only for the backup from the general fleet.  ICA backup was, at best, thin.

Anthony Swanston
SV Wild Fox

Response from the ICA

Firstly there is no such thing as Negative Feedback, feedback is an important tool for improvement and we thank Anthony for his comments.

2016 sees a new regime of documentation for the cruising yachtsman in Indonesia.

From our Partners in Indonesia;- The new Customs  Document handling process was signed off by government just 2 days ago and will be sosialized to all Entry and Exit points. The CAIT will be replaced by a new kind of Sailing Permit for Yachts and this is awaiting sign off by Sea Comm. They will also socialize it soon.

MOT (Ministry of Tourism) have been working closely with these departments throughout this process to get a clear understanding of the processes. To ensure the procedures are understood at a local level MOT are planning to invite all destinations for the Sail 2 Indonesia 2016 rally to Jakarta for raĺly coordination and technical briefing with officials.

Feedback has shown that there is a need for additional pilotage information and we will be providing comprehensive details for the fleet this year.

Briefings at Cairns; there will be three separate briefing sessions this year including a session on clearance out of Australia by Australian Border services where all the clearance forms for the Thursday Island departure will be completed so they can be processed in advance. A general rally briefing from Lyn and myself and the Indonesian Technical briefing by Raymond. In addition to this is the sign-in where participants get their rally packs, tee shirts, battle flags, Indonesian Sim cards and other resources. Sign in will be on day 1, Customs briefing on Day 2 and the two other briefings on day 3.

There is much to get through and only so much that participants can take in at one sitting, there is also a large contingent where English is a second language. We will do one-on-one briefings as we did last year for participants that need additional help. As the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron is about 5km by road from the Marlin Marina, Cairns main marina, we put on a free bus service to assist with transport and to ensure participant get to all the briefings and events.

The Sail 2 Indonesia Rally is a Joint venture between ICA and the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism with ICA handling; registrations, formal paperwork co-ordination, forwarding to Indonesia for processing, the Cairns Muster, briefings etc. and the clearance from Australia. At this point we hand over to the Indonesians for rally control through Indonesia. As Raymond and his team assist us with the ICA build up, ICA will also be assisting Indonesia Rally Control this year with Pilotage information for the fleet as they move through Indonesia. From feedback last year, fewer Festival events are planned and more stops dedicated to free time for the participants. The rally starts one week earlier with muster at Cairns on the 28th of June and finishes on 24th October so vessels can join the Sail Malaysia rally.

John and Lyn
Island Cruising Regattas Ltd.
Sail 2 Indonesia Rally Partners

Go to for full details of the 2016 Sail2Indonesia Rally.

Subsequent report from Rally participant Dot King of S/V Bali Hai - February 25th 2016.

We had a really wonderful and truly amazing time (on the rally). The cultural experience provided by Raymond and his colleagues was rich and colourful. Each of the rally stops seemed to be more incredible than the last.

Of course there were moments of frustration and difficulty and this, we believe, was mainly due to the lack of a leader in the fleet. Raymond did a marvellous job, but his focus was on land-based activities and the delicate task of negotiating with the various officials - he did a brilliant job of this!

What was needed and indeed, what many of us had expected, was an official "go to" person in the fleet.

The fact that there wasn't that one person who understood the concerns of yachties (e.g. having enough depth under your keel) and who was the single point of contact, led to quite a lot of mis-information being spread amongst the fleet.

Similarly, some of the difficulties that occurred with the authorities at the time of visa renewal we think, was due to people taking matters into their own hands  - i.e. rolling up five days before the due date and then interfering with the process which was being perfectly handled by Raymond's representative who was very capable and did a great job.

We felt that there wasn't enough sailing information given at the briefings in Cairns by someone who had actually previously sailed to the rally destinations. For example, it would have been good to know that clean diesel was almost always available and usually cost around an Australian dollar a litre. More often than not it was delivered to our boats and for some people this meant a few trips as they only had a couple of spare containers. Just some genuine information from actual experience would have been great.

Indonesia programme

The programme was amazing, but at times we felt that we had to rush to get to the next venue. More recovery time between arrival dates and events would have been welcomed.

Festival events

We both thoroughly enjoyed all the cultural events, but we should have been prepared for some things better e.g. The long parade in Langgur on Tual. We had no water with us and some people had inappropriate footwear and we had a long walk!

Anchorage Information

The book Raymond prepared was very informative and there was some sharing of waypoints etc. between boats, but a central person to co-ordinate and disseminate information would have been better than the sharing of information in an ad-hoc way.

Visa’s, Documentation and Clearance

We were aware that 50 plus yachts arriving or departing even in the most well-serviced and organised of places, anywhere in the world, would probably be time consuming. We arrived in Maumere on the appointed day and put in our papers and received them back two working days later.

In Belitung we received our passports back quickly with the minimum of fuss.

We closed the gate at Tanjung Pinang and the exit process took us less than two hours with the assistance of the local tourist office (organised by Raymond).

Despite its minor imperfections, we enjoyed every minute of the rally, have made many life long friends and feel so very privileged to have seen so many magnificent places and met so many beautiful, welcoming and tolerant people.

Dot and Jonathan King
SY Bali Hai

rphillip says:
Feb 21, 2016 01:11 AM

The 2015 Wonderful Sail2Indonesia rally has been a wonderful experience for us – our first rally and has taken us from “novice passage maker” to being credible members of a world cruising fleet. We have a 45 year-old GRP 37-foot motor sailing ketch and our passage out of Thursday Island in late July 2015 was our first passage together.

Perceptions of the rally will differ. We read widely before the rally that Indonesia comprised over 13,000 islands stretched across a huge coastline (the longest coastline in the world), had a large population (190 million), hundreds of ethnic groups, approximately 580 languages, a complicated bureaucracy, minimal services in remote areas with the possibility of pirates.

If your expectations are western supermarkets and endless marinas, you will be disappointed. Indonesia, particularly the eastern archipelago, had pristine beaches, amazing diving and snorkelling, tiny villages living a subsistence existence, extremely generous people, beautiful friendly children who come up to anchored rally boats in dugouts and vibrant wet markets selling fresh fish, vegetables and local produce. We learnt to adjust our expectations and live without cheese and wine, fresh meat, banks and ATM’s.

Welcome ceremonies and festivities were spectacular, particularly in Debut, Maurole, Medana Bay, Belitung and Labuan Bajo. Civic dignitaries gave speeches in Bahasa, but the responses from members of the rally fleet in broken Bahasa brought much good humour from locals and rally members. We were frequently greeted with fanfare and treated like Royalty with police escorts and small gifts.

In the remote anchorages, fuel was supplied in 20 litre containers from dugouts and small boats from the shore and was clean and good value. Frequently delivered to the beach by motorcycle from Pertamina service stations, it was much more labour for the local providers than the rally fleet. Water was also bought cheaply in 19 litre containers and delivered to our boat. Laundry was picked up by dugout and delivered washed, dried and ironed the next day.

Dinghy access varied, sometimes involving dinghy boys who handled dinghies and made them secure, but some stops had lee shores, rickety landings or wobbly pontoons. This is an area that could be improved in future rallies.

The formalities were sometimes difficult, but given that most harbours had no reliable communication and computer facilities, out entrance, exit and two visa extensions had difficult moments. Entrance at Debut involved sending officials by boat to the rally fleet in a village that had no customs, immigration or quarantine services. While it was quaint that uniformed officials in dugouts inspected us and the shore base was an empty shed on the end of the jetty, the process was manual and took several days. The visa extensions were also at locations that were not major government centres and while arrangements were made to process the rally fleet, those who arrived early wanting to depart were frustrated.

Daily HF radio skeds provided security for medical and priority matters, and several participants required minor and occasional significant medical attention, which was initially provided by the extensive medical expertise among the rally fleet, and support and evacuation to tertiary medical care, arranged by the Indonesian rally agent, Mr Raymond Lesmana. Anchorage VHF skeds also provided local information on events, anchorages and activities and were run by the fleet.

Local fishing boats were small and had no batteries, so there was minimal electronic communication or equipment in most of Eastern Indonesia, ashore or afloat. Fish Attracting Devices were frequent inshore and presented a constant hazard to navigation, so most of our coastal passages were done in daylight. Our five-day passage from Thursday Island to Debut was uneventful and most enjoyable.

We never saw or heard of any pirates and the locals we dealt with were scrupulously honest.

We would do this rally again and recommend it to our friends. We plan to go back to Indonesia, spend more time enjoying the places we visited and a few we didn’t. With the easing of yachting tourism in Indonesia (thanks to feedback from our rally and the help of Mr Raymond Lesmana), we would happily occupy six months there.

Quintessa says:
Feb 13, 2016 10:43 AM

We did the 2015 rally with ICA departing from Cairns.

We along with most of the other boats had a fantastic time. The issues Anthony refers to are in my view a lot made by ourselves in the way the officialdom was treated by certain members of the rally. We would be told a date to be at a particular place in order to do visa extensions etc. so we would arrive 3 to 5 days early and then try and make it happen. In fairness to the immigration office, they bought extra people in on the days that we were told to be there and we were told it would take 4 odd days from that date. In general the end date was always met. Every cruising guide tells us what to expect.

I feel it is totally unrealistic for Raymond to be everywhere we are. He always had a person there to handle matters for us. They also are in tourism not customs. For me Raymond did a fantastic job and we and many other on the rally thank him very much for his great efforts. We are a group travelling together for a bit of safety in numbers and should not have to be spoon fed the whole way. If you want to be spoon fed get on a cruise ship and pay considerably more money. There is a limit to what can be done with $550 per boat. We all want free shirts, flags, parties with beer provided, flights and hotels to be provided for persons flying in, CAIT last year, plus ICA has to make money for it to continue doing the great work they do. Some expect the world when an entry fee is paid.

The fuel issues are part of the problems and you need to deal with it before you leave. We are a powerboat so it was up there at the top of the list. The locals are great assistance but yes there is plenty of dodgy stuff that happens. The people have little and we to them have lots and they do not understand teak decks, our nice shiny paintwork etc. Put simply, if they get fuel into our tanks they feel that is a great achievement.

Indonesia is a third world country and to do this rally expect that it is third world. If you look past that, the people are simply fantastic.

I would definately recommend the rally with ICA but take on board what I have expressed above before taking the plunge. We would love to see ICA do back to Australia rally across the top of New Guinea and down through the the Louisaides spending 6 week in the Louisaides before departing back to Australia. Louisaides are poorer than Indonesia, but once again the people are sensational and the crayfish are delicious.

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