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Cruise Philippines, Manila to Kupang, Indonesia

By doina — last modified Aug 22, 2008 01:49 PM

Published: 2008-08-22 13:49:29
Topics: Malay Archipelago
Countries: Indonesia , Philippines

We are a couple planning to cruise our 40' yacht south from Manila to meet up with the Darwin Kupang rally in Kupang at the end of July. While we have cruised the Philippines extensively we have not, and know of no other yachts who have cruised through the northern part of Indonesia. We would like to as much as possible make the trip from Manila to Kupang a cruise rather than a delivery. Two possible routes are either Via Puerto Princesa, Sandakan, Strait of Macassar, passing east of Flores or Cebu, east of Mindanao, Molucca Sea, Banda Sea, passing east of Alor. Any thoughts, advice or sources of information would be greatly appreciated.

The area to be concerned about is not at the end of your proposed route, but close to its start. As you said that you have sailed in the Philippines extensively, you probably know that areas of Mindanao are not considered to be safe. Going south from there you should avoid passing through the Sulu Seas, which is known for the frequency of piracy attacks on shipping. There are no reports on attacks on cruising yachts, simply because no yachts are known to have visited the area in recent times. Maybe your best bet is to keep well to the east of Mindano and make your way east of Halmahera and Ceram. This is a more roundabout route, I know, but it may be safer. Avoid stopping in Ambon as recent reports from there have not been good.

The above route, as described, looks quite attractive on paper, and may be the safest option but if I were you I would try to sail in company with another yacht, to increase the safety factor.

You probably know that you will need an Indonesian cruising permit. You can get it via Bali Marina. Contact the manager Mr. Hario Sugito.

Good luck!

Jimmy Cornell

A few thoughts from recent experience:

I'm aware of numerous yachts making passages through the Sulu Sea without any problems. Numerous yachts make passages from Palau Is (NW Pacific) into SE Asia using a route that crosses the Sulawesi Sea to approach the Sabah (Malaysia) coast at the southern end of the Sulu Archipeligo. Because of concerns, many yachts transit this southern Sulu Archipelago area at night; to reduce the possibility of being noticed.

Numerous yachts also make the reverse passage, from Sandakan, through the southern Sulu Archipeligo where it is close to the Sabah (Malaysia) coasts.

A yacht on passage to Australia recently took this route to Minado (northern Sulawesi) and then onto Ambon and further south via the historic Spice Islands.

In July 2007, two yachts made a similar passage from Sandakan, through the bottom of the Sothern Sulu Archipeligo and then turned SE to Sulawesi and sailed down the west Sulawesi coast to Flores. All without any problems. The wind on the west coast of Sulawesi is - according to the organisers of the famous Sandaq race - from the NE and E in July and August. These two yachts spent some time at anchor - exploring ashore, and visiting the island dive resorts populated by international visitors - while waiting for their GRIB weather charts via SailMail to show a favourable wind for their next hop down the coast.

A few years ago some Labuan based sailors took a 26 foot McGreggor yacht (the trailer-sailor yacht with big outboard motor) for two extensive cruises through the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas, crossing through the Sulu Archipeligo a number of times - in the areas we'd all assume to be problematic - and had absolutely nothng but wonderful trips where they met many helpful and friendly people. The only "pirates" they encountered were government officials in the Philippines and Indonesia who wanted a few US$ for processing port and immigration papers; not a big burden.

Since the kidnapping for ransom incident from Sipidan Island (in Sabah - Malaysia) about ten years ago, the Malaysian Government has established two new Navy bases - at Sandakan and Tawau - and a vastly increased patrol presence off the north and east coasts of Borneo Island; ie: off Sabah, the state of Malaysia. Coupled with other actions inside the Philippines the potential for problems in these areas appears to have declined significantly.

A number of cruisers I met recently in Darwin were considering to take the Sail Indonesia rally to Timor, Flores and then Udangpanjang - (southern Sulawesi) to see the Sandaq race, then sail north along the west Sulawesi coast, cross to Sabah (Malaysia) and around the top of Borneo to Brunei, to await the change of Monsoon from SW to NE in late November or early December, to get a free sheets ride south along the west coast of Borneo, then across to Singapore for Christmas.

Allan Riches - Brunei Bay Radio [email protected]