West Sumatra: Notes from seven weeks cruising

Published 11 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Anchorages West Coast of Sumatra

The following are notes of our anchorages that we visited during our cruise of West Sumatra during December and January 2013 on S/Y ARIANA – a Deerfoot 61. Our draft is 2.0M. Below, we touch on anchorages of note. The coordinates for the anchorages listed are from our GPS fix.

Provisioning in Advance

We began our cruise in Phuket, Thailand the third week of November and called at Langkawi for some vino, spirits, and fuel, none of which is readily available in Sumatra (or elsewhere in Indonesia for that matter). Aceh province on Sumatra is very dry. We did our major food provisioning in Phuket. This turned out to be a good decision as the Phuket markets are some of the best we have found in Southeast Asia. The traditional Pasar/markets in Sumatra are good for fresh fruits and vegetables at major population centres such as Padang. However, the outer islands may not have readily accessible markets. Get it while and where you can.


We purchased diesel (solar) in Sabang and Lahewa, Nias (I know it is available in Padang as well but we didnʼt purchase any there) but we found it to be of poor quality.

The fuel that we purchased through Bali marina was of better quality but still substandard.

The fuel that we purchased through fishermen at Bitung was of much better quality.

It is highly recommended that one have a filter funnel and many Racor filter elements and secondary elements in stock before departing. The cost of diesel/solar during our cruise was RPH5,000 for the local’s price and RPH8,000 for foreigners. At Bali Marina, we paid Rph9,000 but the fuel was delivered alongside by barge and the marina there always takes its cut. At Lahewa we paid RPH5,000 plus an RPH500,000 “delivery fee” to the Harbor Master. This was worth it as we took on 800 litres and got to come alongside the wharf there to fuel (from drums filled at the local petrol station). Same price at Bitung (different fee) and large jerry jugs delivered alongside.


Of course, you must have your CAIT and visa unless you donʼt plan to check into Indonesia legally. We found the officials in Sumatra to generally be without scruples by todayʼs Indonesian standards, but they are usually looking for a small change and/or a bottle of rum.

When we arrived in Bitung, Sulawesi, we were told by the very professional, honest, and helpful harbormaster there, that under current regulations it is only necessary for a yacht to obtain a clearance at the port of entry and that it is not necessary to obtain a clearance at every port of call. Bitung was our last Indonesian port of call on this trip. It would have saved us a lot of time, “administrative payments”, and hassle if we had known this three months earlier.

Padang was one of the worst places from the perspective of the behaviour of the officials. Sabang was a close second with the exception of Immigration there. Expect to be hassled/shaken down, should your documents or other aspects of your vessel not be in order when you call at Sabang or Padang. We were squeaky clean and still were pressured to shell out cash and liquor. One can refuse but we decided it would not be worth the bad feelings this could generate. Good humour and a common sense approach as to what is a reasonable “fee” usually did the trick. When pressured, we generally kept payments around Rupiah 50,000.

Sumatra Anchorages

We arrived in Sumatra at Sabang in Pulau We. We cleared Selat Sunda to the south during the last week of January. Anchorages that we used to follow. While we try to be diligent in our coordinates and notes, we do not warrant their accuracy and do not assume any responsibility for their correctness. It is incumbent on anyone who refers to these notes to rely on their own navigation.


We arrived in Sabang on 1 December in driving rain. The harbour is well protected. However, it is very deep. After several circles, we found an anchorage off some fishing huts in 19M at 5.53.09N/95.19.39E.

There is a local green market in town and a good fruit stand on the main road.

Customs and Immigration are on top of the hill. Expect the Harbor Master and Customs to visit the boat and do an inspection and look for a “souvenir”.

We moved to Pulau Raya as soon as it was practical.

Pulau Rubiah

There are about four moorings at Pulau Rubiah just west of Sabang, at 5.52.614N/95.15.546E. Much nicer location than Sabang. We entered from the easier west entrance to the lagoon due to limited visibility. Local dive operation. Inexpensive, decent food served family style at the local guest house a walk west of the dive operation building up a small path that winds along the shoreline on the edge of the bluff. Forget the name but a white building with writing on the wall as you approach. Diving is decent.


A very protected fishing anchorage in 5M at 5.20.99N/95.14.16E. Beware of curving reef that extends off southwest arm to the harbour and then wraps to the east. Can be crowded with fishing boats. Rocks are visible or just awash to the west and north of the anchorage. Caution advised at going too deep into the bay or swinging to the north after “clearing” the sheltering reef.

Pulau Lekon, Simelue

Nice spot on the north end of Simelue, but as with many anchorages off this coast, it is open to the west. We had some roll but the sea was moderate to small. Anchor in 8M at 2.42.99N/95.43.60E.

Teluk Lugu, Simelue

Anchored in 6M at 2.23.295N/96.19.91E. Very open to the west. Expect a rolling time at this one. Swell funnels up bay. Canʼt imagines that this would be a satisfactory anchorage during the high surf season. The folks at Baneng Surf “resort” are very friendly and helpful. Ibu is the manager. They helped us with rides to town (at a cost) for the market (decent) and with directions to laundry, etc. which are located in Sinabang.

Pulau Tepak

Anchored off north shore in 16m, rock bottom, at 2.21.946N/96.14.62E. Beware of the steeply shoaling reef. No roll.

Pulau Lasia

Very nice spot. Beautiful beach. Clearwater. Waving palms… More protected than would appear at first blush. We sat out some unsettled weather here anchored with many fishermen who sought a protected anchorage for a couple of nights. Anchor in 14M, sand and coral rubble, at 2.10.35N/96.38.96E. You can see coral heads that were thrust out of the water by the tectonic activity. The island has clearly risen several meters.

Pulau Belayar

A very protected anchorage between Simelue and Belayar. Mangrove. Enter from the south but only in DAYLIGHT. Narrow entrance. Mind the sounder and read the water, as channel twists and reefs/rocks are close at hand. The good judgement required on approach and entrance. Anchor in 20M at 2.25.28N/96.28.74.

Pulau Saranggatong

A protected anchorage in the Banyak Islands. Due to weather and seas, it was not advisable to anchor in “Bay of Plenty” so we worked our way in here through the fringing reef. Anchored in 19M at 2.04.50N/97.21.035E. A couple of fishermen came through. A quiet place.

Lahewa, Nias

We entered this very protected harbour from the northwest entrance staying closer to the shore to the east as you first enter the reef. Rock visible off point on the west side of the outer entrance. Channel then curves to the east and deepens. Lahewa bay then opens to the south. Anchor in 18M mud at 1.24.014N/97.10.42E. Friendly locals. Very poor town. Stricken by quakes and tsunami over the years. Nias has risen in many places bringing the reefs out of the water with it. You can see coral heads 100ʼs of meters above high water. The people here have suffered for it.

Yusuf is a very helpful contact here. The Harbor Master helped with fuel for a fee and allowed us to come to the wharf to syphon diesel out of drums form the back of his pick-up into our tanks. A big local attraction. The market is limited as are restaurants (one of questionable quality).

Other harbours on Nias are exposed and fuel may be more difficult to obtain.

Pulau Spika

Very nice spot. Protected with no roll. Nice beach. Excellent right-hander. Bought and traded lures for fish with local fishermen. Entered from south working around the fringing reef. Anchor in 16M sand at 0.08.17S/98.20.74E.

Cubadak, West Sumatra

Anchored off this lovely island just off the coast of Sumatra in 25M at 1.12.95S/100.24.09E. Although a two-hour ride to Padang we chose to anchor here due to the unattractiveness of Padang and to avoid the officials there who we have been told are predatory. This anchorage is off a very nice resort owned by Nani, a very kind person who was helpful to us. His business partner Marco is also nice. However, Marcoʼs wife Dominique is less than hospitable. While Nani was willing to lend us a hand in arranging transportation, our presence appeared to cause some dissension in the ranks with Dominique being quite unpleasant. Hard to understand as they canʼt have very many visiting yachts and we were more than willing to spend there, purchase meals, etc. Challenging place from which to visit Padang for supplies without their assistance. Nani helped us and we visited Padang for visa and supplies. We were also able to arrange a drive up to Bucketing.

Padang is not an attractive harbour. The local fresh market there is good and there are a couple of “supermarkets”. We bought provisions at Toco Saudera. Great place to stock up on Sumatran coffee.

Pulau Kandui

Surf central. We were fortunate to be here during the “off” season. We had an excellent surf. Fairly protected anchorage by local standards. However, wise to keep a weather eye out here as I would not want to weather a major blow in this lagoon. Where we anchored by the large moorings we had a minimal role. We would guess that it would be challenging to find an acceptable place to drop the hook here during the surf season with charter boats filling the lagoon. The entrance to the inner lagoon was too shallow for us to enter. In the inner lagoon, a boat would find very protected shelter, but the entrance appears to be about 2-3M, narrow and dog legs. Care is needed to navigating these waters. This lagoon is no exception. Be wary of the reefs here. Good light is requisite. We anchored in 20M at 1.54.07S/99.18.49E.

Pulau Rakata

We had 25+ knots of favourable breeze from Kandui. As a result, we had a fast reach straight from there to Selat Sunda. The morning approaching the Strait, the wind died, the sun came out. The weather and sea became so calm we were able to anchor here in the remains of Kakatoaʼs crater. Not a recommended anchorage should the weather be unsettled. We anchored in 23M just at the craterʼs edge at 06.08.55S/105.25.46E. Clearwater. The baby volcano was smoking and rumbling away to the north. Pumice in the water around the boat.

From here we headed to the Karimunjawa Islands, Bali, and Gili Aer. From there we set sail for Southeast Sulawesi. We sailed north on the east coast of Sulawesi to the Banggai Islands and then we cruised the Togean Islands in Teluk Tomini.

We departed Indonesia at Bitung.

Jonathan Rodriguez-Atkatz


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  1. March 30, 2017 at 1:43 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    This is so incredibly useful and motivating to get out there. Thanks for sharing!