Singapore to Sunda Strait, Indonesia in August 2015
A useful report if planning this passage from the Singapore area to Indonesia.
Published 8 years ago, updated 4 years ago
We were aiming for a September crossing of the Indian Ocean. September and May are supposed to be the ‘quieter’ months for weather and swell but we had too much school and boat work to be ready in time for the May window. Trouble is…by August, the trades are blowing fairly strongly; great for passage making….but only if the wind’s behind you! We needed to get to Sunda although didn’t want to get ourselves and the boat bashed up by the 500 mile beat to windward. We decided to allow for a whole month to do it. The trades do vary in intensity and we thought we could move south during the lighter periods.
We left Pengileh Cape (at the eastern end of the Johor Strait) at 09:40 hrs on 30th July, having just cleared out of Malaysia (easy and friendly, as expected) and by 12:10 hrs had crossed the TSS in the Singapore Strait. We had SE/SSE wind of up to 10 knots, so a motor-sail.
We’d read in another boat’s blog that they’d had a ‘comfortable night’ anchored behind the headland of Tanjung Sembulang. On the chart, it didn’t look like it would afford much protection but we had a look anyway. It was slightly rolly and we couldn’t get that close to shore but the protection was fine for a night. The position was: 00°52′.176N 104°14′.906E, in 2.5m mud (NB all depths are tide-adjusted). Thanks to Gisela and Uwe of Venus, we had a new Telkomsel SIM and vouchers and were able to get a connection, via smartphone, as soon as we were in Indonesian waters (used SIMs don’t seem to work, even with new credit). The ‘registration’ process required an address in the country but the first line of our agents seem to be enough. Signal poor in this anchorage though.
The next day we motor-sailed 48 miles to Pulau Sentamu. Winds were light (SE 8) with heavy rain and squalls in the afternoon. We had a very lumpy half hour of wind against current in the south of the Selat Riau but otherwise, the seas were fairly flat.
This looked, from the chart, to be a superbly sheltered spot; and it was. Pulau Sentamu at position: 00°13′.548N 104°29′.167E We anchored in 6.5m in the mud. It was very isolated, with only a tiny stilt village in the south of the bay: lovely. We decided to stay for 2 nights and were glad we had as the next day it rained non-stop from dawn to dusk. A local fisherman exchanged some squid for some old rope. Telkomsel signal is poor.
On 2nd August we motor-sailed the 26 miles to Kentar Island, via the inside route on the west side of Sebangka. There was no wind protection from the SE 12 knots but we had pretty flat water.
Kentar island. We’d spent a night here on our way up to Singapore and were happy to be back again. This time it was a little rolly though. Position: 00°03′.250N 104°45′.559E in 10m sand / mud. A local man swapped a large scale fish for another of our ropes.
Our crossing-of-the-equator-day dawned with black skies, but only to the north. We set off south towards Lingga and then the clouds followed us. Heavy rain and strong wind from the south caused us to hold our position while it went through; we didn’t want to make our offerings to Poseidon while it was like that! The rain stopped, we presented the God of the Seas with the last of our Mount Gay Rum, our very special crisps and a couple of poems the boys had written especially…and carried on our way. We assume Poseidon didn’t think much of that because a little later the wind and rain picked up again (to about 20 knots S) and continued for the next 27 miles. We were heading for the anchorage at the southern-most tip of Lingga but, from the wind direction, we weren’t sure it would be tenable. We stopped to dry out at 00°15′.4S 104°56′.0E, just off the beach, north of the headland. Wind protection was excellent but the swell and current made us roll around horribly. We continued on later in the afternoon, once the weather conditions improved and the wind was from the SE again, but hobby-horsed through a section of wind versus current close to the headland. Not a great day. But this was the last rain /squall/thunderstorm weather we were to see.
Because of our late arrival and the poor light we couldn’t risk tucking in close to shore as we couldn’t see the reef. Our anchorage position was: 00°18′.487S 104°58′.784E in 3.3m sand/mud. Wind protection was very good but we rolled badly and couldn’t wait to get away the next day. Telkomsel is weak but usable for email/weather.
Passage Weather was showing a continuation of the light trades for the next few days, so we decided to make the first of our open sea passages to windward: 92M to the NE tip of Bangka. The forecast was accurate; we had winds from the SSE to ESE of up to 12 knots only and motor-sailed the entire way. The waves were only about 0.5m high, although the short intervals between them gave enough chop to make the boat pitch up and down for the whole trip. We had spray on the foredeck but we stayed dry in the cockpit.
NE Bangka. This is listed as anchorage 86 in the 101 Anchorages of Indonesia guide, although it is misnamed as Pulau Lingga! The position was: 01°30′.555S 105°52′.567E in 5m sand. Good wind protection and reasonable swell protection too. Telkomsel signal OK from the various cellphone masts.
We left the next day, on 5th August, to make the last of the windward open-sea passages, to Belitung. The forecast was for up to 15 knots SE, so we decided to allow 2 nights to make the 154 M trip as we don’t go well to windward and wanted to be able to sail some of it to make it more comfortable. A good decision as it turned out. We started out motor-sailing and had no more than 15 knots (SSE to ESE) but the shallow choppy sea made the motion of the boat unpleasant. As soon as we steered off the wind it was much better and a combination of motor/sail and sail alone completed the 42-hour trip (we slowed down to make an arrival after 09:30 to have good enough light to see the reefs).
This anchorage, in the NW of Belitung, behind the headland of Tanjung Kalayang, is well described by SV Baraka on Noonsite. Our position was: 02°33′.568S 107°39′.076E in 6m sand. We made our approach at midday, with good overhead light and could easily see the reefs in the bay. A beautiful anchorage, and well protected in the SE trades, although a fairly long dinghy ride from the headland, where the cafes/transport is located. The house next to the pier, near the anchorage, is now derelict. Telkomsel signal was so good that we could stream youtube experiments for a chemistry module we were doing in school.
We cleared into Indonesia with the help of Mr Johny (Lytha’s agent). His fee for clearance in/out an issue of the PIB was $125 US (he accepts the US or local currency). This seemed expensive initially but he worked hard for it and the process was time-consuming. We had already sent him our yacht and crew details before we left Malaysia.
There are lots of eateries around the headland as this bay is a tourist attraction for visitors from Jakarta. Many of the cafe owners can organise a car and driver, fuel, water and tours. There didn’t seem to be a bus service and a car/driver for a day cost 500,000Rp. We can highly recommend Evan, whose cafe is at the base of the concrete pier north of the headland. Evan is fun, friendly, speaks excellent English and understands the needs of cruisers. He arranged transport, laundry, beer (can only be acquired by those with a permit to sell it ie a cafe owner) and water for us and helped us after our dinghy was put out of action. The cafe nearest the anchorage (Pak Ajung) arranged to bring diesel out to the boat, in jerries. We met Harun, who is mentioned in lots of blogs and lives up to his reputation. His large warehouse-style hardware store sells lots of useful items. He filled our propane bottles.
The town has good provisioning but the prices in the market were much more expensive (for ‘bule’) than other parts of Indonesia; tourism has arrived in Belitung. We found that roadside veggie stalls were much more reasonably priced.
We stayed for 12 days. Clearance in was done on day 4 of our stay and clearance out on day 7, due to weekends / public holidays. Just required patience and paperwork, as expected.
When we were planning the route through Indonesia, we had hoped to visit Jakarta too but Batavia Marina was completely full for 10 days in the middle of August due to the Indonesian Boat Show.
On 18th August, at first light, we moved to the SW of Belitung, via the small inner channel. We had clear skies later and with the eyeball, plus our broadband radar was able to see that the islands and reefs were all as charted on Navionics Gold. Depths too were very accurate. We had 17 knots of SE wind, on the nose for most of the 56M, but the water was flat and we managed to sail some of it.
Anchorage position in Bermepun: 03°08′.525S 107°36′.77E, in 3m sand/mud. It was wind-swept and we were a long way from shore but no swell and very little chop. Telkomsel is OK.
From Belitung, the rhumb line to Sunda Strait takes you through a mass of oilfields. We weren’t too worried about the lack of lights on some of them, as radar will pick them up, but the chart warning of ‘submerged’ ones alarmed us. So, we followed the edge of the shipping lane which runs from the Selat Baur at Belitung, in the slightly deeper water, down the east side of the Thousand Islands (Pulau Pulau Seribu). Most of the fishing activity seemed to be in the relatively shallower area between the shipping and the oil rigs.
We decided to stop at the 1000 Islands for a night so that we could time our arrival in Sunda more accurately. We’d had a wonderful 170M trip, leaving Belitung early morning and arriving at lunchtime the next day with perfect overhead light for the reef entry. We sailed the whole way, making over 7 knots at times in SE / ESE / E winds of up to 12 knots: pure bliss after so many months of burning diesel.
This is number 76 in the 101 Anchorages book. The approach needs to be made via the main channel which runs east/west, south of the Genteng Besar island group. There are uncharted reefs and islands in the area so good light is important. There is now a long pier off the west side of P. Kayuangin (see No 76 ‘mud map’)and the east jetty on Genteng Besar is derelict, so it can be confusing initially. When you get closer in, it’s easy to see that there’s a lagoon behind the reef but it’s not obvious at all from a distance. There is no guard house and the buildings on shore at the eastern end of Genteng Besar are falling down, so we didn’t think it likely we’d be moved on.
Anchorage position: 05°37′.150S 106°33′.392E in 22m sand. Room in the lagoon for 3 or 4 boats to put out the 65m chain. It was a beautiful spot, surrounded by turquoise reef and protected from the swell. Many of the islands were bristling with cellphone masts but very poor Telkomsel signal from this anchorage.
We sailed, with the cruising chute, in 7 knots of NE / ENE wind and completely flat water towards the Sunda approach on 22nd August. We were aiming for an 8 pm start to the Strait itself (when the SE monsoon current and the daily tides were heading the same way ie south). None of our pilot guides had information about the direction of flow of the daily tides, and we couldn’t find out on the internet, but fortunately, we’d been given the Total Tides programme and it was spot-on.
We had zero wind, glassy water and lots of shipping and ferry traffic at the narrowest point of the Strait. All the ferries and virtually all the ships had AIS and were well lit. Tugs were lit but tows were not. Our route took us down the Java side. Just south of Pulau Sangiang, the boat started pitching into short ‘waves’. There was no wind, so we assumed it was ocean swell getting bounced around and against the southerly current. No spray on the deck and not too uncomfortable but it lasted two or three hours until we were well south of Carita beach. We were transiting at neaps and had a maximum current of 3 knots in the narrowest section.
We had hoped to catch a glimpse of Krakatoa or even anchor there, but the forecast was for 25 knots SE, and the girls showed it blowing strongly over the low-lying SW Javan peninsula. We didn’t fancy the 45M beat afterwards to our planned anchorage at Pulau Peucang, so gave it a miss. Winds were as forecast or more, so we were happy to be fairly close to Java and in flat water.
Arrived at 08:30 on 23rd August. This is Anchorage 78 in the 101 Anchorages book. Fantastic spot. We initially anchored off the ranger station, as suggested in the guide, but when the wind picked up significantly we moved off the lee shore to a position opposite: 06° 45′.055S 105°15′.895E in 13m sand. Trades blowing strongly over the low-lying coast but good holding and flat water. We weren’t approached for fees. Unfortunately, with our dinghy out of use, we couldn’t go ashore to walk across the island. No internet connectivity with the cellphone mast here but OK for text/calls.
We achieved our objective of reaching Sunda in lighter winds, didn’t break any equipment on the boat (the dinghy is another story entirely) and we enjoyed spending time in new anchorages but the 24 days spent getting there did seem to drag on somewhat. We cleared into Indonesia partly because we prefer to be legal but also to be able to access fuel /water/provisions easily and to enable us to stop and repair the boat should it become necessary. This was all achieved but at quite a financial cost (visas, CAIT, clearance etc), considering the length of time we were actually cleared into the country. We only saw two other yachts; both anchored in Belitung. As we had internet access, we used Passage Weather and Windy for weather info. Windy gave much more detailed information for the Sunda Strait but both were accurate. We were able to pick up Singapore and Jakarta Navtex broadcasts but the weather forecasts were too broad to be of any real help.
SV Yindee Plus
Some anchorage and marina information: south from Singapore, Thousand Islands, Jakarta to Sunda Strait
[MINNIE B is and OVNI 395 with centreboard and folding rudder, drawing less than 1 metre with all in the up position and 2.1 metres with the centreboard down. This trip took place in June and July 2015]
The Johor and Singapore Straits were as usual very interesting with a wide range of vessels on the move or at anchor. This being our second outing it was not so daunting and we chose to cross the TSS at Buffalo Rock (01 09.32’N:103 48.39’E) which meant that we missed a lot of traffic around the main port area of Singapore.
We then cut through various channels, relying on the accuracy of C-Map (good), for Selat Bulan. Our destination anchorage was at Pulau Boyan, just 36nm, where we found good shelter but tucked into the bank closer to Pulau Tanjungkubu (01 01.162’N:103 54.876’E) to avoid the villagers’ nets. It was very sheltered and got us away from the busy shipyards that line the Batam side of the channel, albeit there was strong tidal current but with anchor well dug in, we celebrated the start of our next adventure.
From there we had a 38nm trip to Pulau Abang Besar, and joy of joys we even managed to sail for nearly three hours when we had an SSW wind – we were wishing for this to speed us on our way as our course overall was mostly SE. We declined the suggested anchorages in the Cruising Guide and went “mouillage Sauvage”, finding a very sheltered spot – a bit closer to the reef than we had intended when we awoke the following morning, but safe enough (00 33.624’N:104 13.811’E).
Wednesday 17th June we had our destination of choice as Pulau Kentar and maybe the SSW wind would be kind – no such luck as it did not last and backed to lightish from the SE, so after a mere hour of sailing it was motor-sail/motor again. The anchorage was again very pretty and sheltered (00 03.231’N:104 45.619’E).
Next day was a short run to Pulau Lingga of 37nm and we crossed the Equator for the seventh time in MINNIE B at 1115 and so there was the toast, prayers and thanks to Neptune and, of course, his share of the champagne – what a guy, as we sailed for five of the seven hours it took and had a fine spot to anchor on the north side of Tanjung Jang (00 16.674’S:104 54.080’E).
Then we had some options. At first, we thought of heading for Pulau Pekacang where we had a splendid beach BBQ last October with Sail Indonesia friends, but the island and its neighbour, Cebu, are aligned SE-NW so don’t offer shelter in SE winds. Then we considered doing a two-nights/three-days run directly to Belitung as it would be a beat all the way, but finally, we settled on heading for a bay on the NE corner of Bangka.
The rhumb line was 92nm but we ended up sailing 132nm and it took us 25 hours. Fortunately, there were few fishing boats about and fewer cargo ships. At the anchorage (01 30.593’S:105 52.442’E), some friendly local people called by to say hello – it was good to be back in Indonesia.
We rested that day and had a good night’s sleep before leaving for Tanjung Kelayang in the NW of Belitung. The rhumb line was 125nm and with a light wind we luffed up a bit and motor-sailed for 10 hours, having departed at first light – 0530. This gave us a course of around 10-15 degrees off the rhumb line. However, in the late afternoon, the wind backed and we were 40+ degrees off the rhumb line and beating again.
We were closer to the shipping lanes and all was well with cargo ships altering course to avoid us – quite a change. We motor-sailed the last 20nm to arrive at the anchorage (02 33.363’S:107 40.361’E) at 0830 on Monday 22nd June, having travelled 155nm. We worked our way through the reef and anchored in 3.0 metres – OVNI time.
So back again, but this time instead of lots of Rally boats, we have the anchorage to ourselves – well, and the local boats taking tourists into the nearby bay and to the granite rock formations that guard the west side of the anchorage.
A phone call to our agent, Johnny, had him meeting us ashore at 1100 so that we could give him our passports and papers to start the inward clearance process. Next day we went with Evan in his car to Quarantine and Customs and met Johnny who carried on with the clearance. He had everything completed that afternoon and Customs were too busy to come to MINNIE B. So, that was all good then …
We left Tanjung Kelayang at 0630 on Saturday 27th June and headed for the shelter of a bay on the south-west of Belitung for the night.
The chart showed an area that should be OK with protection from the SE winds. We were able to sail some and motor-sail some as we dodged various islands and reefs. We carefully crept into the bay at Bermepun and anchored in 3.7 metres to be in 3 metres at low water. The holding was good in mud (03 08.540’S:107 36.827’E). The trip was 56nm and the idea had been to reduce the passage to Pulau Pulau Seribu (The Thousand Islands) to around 160nm so that we would have a daylight arrival.
We were up again at dawn on 28th June and left the anchorage at 0605, motoring through reefs that protect the SW of Belitung, and with current against us we cleared the final hazard by 0830 and were sailing in 13kts E wind making 5.5-6.0 knots. Dolphins welcomed us and we thought it was a good omen.
We sailed on through the day on a close reach, making our rhumb line, but in the early evening we saw a brown sea snake and thought this was not a good omen, and sure enough by 2130 the wind was down to 5kts and it was burning diesel time. The wind was not kind and did not rise above 5kts for the rest of the passage.
Our arrival in Pulau Pulau Seribu was a bit of a let-down as it suffers from the Javanese/Jakarta haze – must be so much air pollution. So visibility was about 6-7 nm, which did detract from the atmosphere. Notwithstanding this, we went in search of an anchorage.
Cruising guides tell you that there are many sandy beaches where you can anchor. The 101 Indonesian Anchorages Guide gives one anchorage and the South East Asia Pilot (Fourth Edition) gives just one anchorage also. We did not like the look of either and tried to find somewhere better. We identified a shallow area between P Putrigundel and P Tongkeng. C-Map showed 6 metres CD, but when we got there it was more like 4 metres CD and the bottom was rocks and coral heads – no thank you.
So, off to the 101 Anchorages spot – all fine until rounding the NE of P Genteng, where the chart showed >20 metres depth and our echosounder showed less than 3 metres. Let’s get out of here. So, next to the SE Asia Pilot anchorage which it describes as a 6 metres deep shoal. We are bang on the waypoint, we circle around, we go to the position shown on C-Map, we circle around – no shoal and in any case, it’s a mile and a half from the shore. Oh dear.
So we head for the nearby village on P Kelepadua. Great, we find a spot in 12 metres then as the chain rattles down we see just how close to the reef we are. No thanks, so up anchor and move to the middle of the channel and anchor in 23 metres in the mud.
Although we did not go right to the 101 Anchorages spot, from looking at the chart and our experience of footling around the islands we do not believe that it is tenable as it is most likely too close to the reef. So, it seems that if you want to enjoy the Thousand Islands, just put up with anchoring in 20-25 metres and ignore the haze.
We had a trip ashore to the village – the people were friendly enough but this was not a well-off place.
Then to Batavia Sunda Kelapa Marina at Jakarta – the main things to note are that (1) before and at the 90 degrees turn inside the marina wall the depths are shallow but it is soft mud and you are not likely to get stuck – low water would not be a good idea though; and (2) the marks for the start of the channel into the marina are at 06 06.920’S:106 48.956E – NOT at the waypoint provided by the Marina Manager as this takes you into the old Sunda Kelapa Harbour.
The marina staff are some of the most welcoming, helpful and considerate, so we highly recommend it. If clearing out here try Hans Otto on +62 816 747 919 or [email protected] – he will keep you right at a very sensible cost, and his advice proved sound for our arrival in Cocos Keeling. We left the boat here for a couple of days while we visited Jogjakarta – excellent security, non-potable water, and diesel available.
On Thursday 9th July, we crawled out of Batavia Marina at first light, 0550 with keel up and rudder in the safe knock-up position. Well, our lowest spot was 1.8 metres of water and we were clear. The wind was nowhere to be seen so we motored towards Teluk Banten to seek shelter for the night.
The Cruising guide suggests stopping at Pulau Kali on the west side but this is a port area with electricity generating plants and other industrial activity. We stopped on the west side of Pulau Pamuyan Besar (05 56.507’S:106 12.864’E) in 14 metres and well sheltered from NE to S … so there was a late afternoon sea breeze from NW. It died away and our night was fine.
For the trip to Krakatoa, the tides were bizarre – C-Map and Admiralty Tide Tables were the same – and we should have had tide against us but rather it turned out that at times we had 2kts with us, so we covered the 51nm in 8 hours. The “101 Indonesian Anchorages” guide made it all sound a bit difficult, but we had downloaded a free chapter on Java from a new Indonesian cruising guide and this was much more positive and helpful.
We decided to anchor at Pulau Panjang, otherwise known as Rakata Kecil or Krakatoa East and this was excellent as we had shelter from all except NW and the wind was mostly SSE. The holding was very good at 12 metres at 06 05.705’S:105 26.943’E.
It was awesome, with Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa) steaming and smoking, and most of its sides covered in ash and lava from eruptions as recent as 2008 and 2009. Across the way was Rakata Besar, all that is left of the rim of Krakatoa, which exploded in 1883. Very highly recommended.
Then it was on to Cocos Keeling.
Phil and Norma Heaton
s/y MINNIE B