Passage to the Unknown

Having said farewell to Ben who had joined us for a few pleasant days floating around the islands off Johore we prepared the boat for sea. First though a short trip around to the east coast of Tioman for a night at anchor in Juara. Heading clockwise around the island to view parts we had not yet visited, the scenery was spectacular with steep granite cliffs topped in jungle and bays containing exotic looking resorts hiding in amongst the palm trees, idyllic scenes that in part are why the film South Pacific was made here. However the sea and wind were not at all enjoyable.

A sunny afternoon turned into a slog under engine against a short chop that ensured progress was slow. The clouds gathered and it briefly rained but the reward was a wonderful rainbow. Part of us wondered if we would should have foregone the sightseeing for an easier trip the way we’d previously done it; anti-clockwise with the wind and tide! Once again Juara proved a pretty but rolly place to be. Some seven or eight rally boats were already here.

A Fast Passage

Early Sunday morning Temptress set off on a course slightly north of east, following most of the rest of the rally fleet who had departed the evening before or sometime after midnight. Full sail, beam reaching, it was fast. As the southerly built we progressively shortened sail til Temptress had 2 reefs and a partially furled genoa. At 8 knots we were well ahead of our planned journey time but the sailing in relatively flat seas was the best for a long long time, the crew was having fun!

Our destination the Anambas Islands, part of the Riau province of Indonesia are located off the west coast of Kalimantan (Borneo) about 120nm east of Tioman and around 200nm from Kalimantan. Until recently virtually unvisited by tourists or yachties these islands and their neighbours Natuna are supposedly very pretty with lots of wonderful corals and pale blue seas according to the pictures and what we’ve read. We have almost a month to explore both groups before sailing further east to reach Kuching by mid June. And, according the schedules provided by Pak Raymond of Sail Indonesia, plenty of activities have been organised by the locals for the rally crews too.

Early Birds

Before midnight Temptress had reached the outer edges of the Anambas. Our destination, the town of Terempa where we were to clear in to Indonesia is located on the northern tip of P. Siantan some 30 nm further east. Protected by the islands to the south the seas here were flat, the wind had eased and we’d shaken out the 3rd reef put in during the passage of several dry squalls in the afternoon. Sailing at 5 or 6 knots we carried on aware that it would still be dark when we reached Terempa. With some two or three miles still to go the first mate woke the skipper, “time to tack”. We turned Temptress through 180 degrees and in the traditional style of sailing vessels stood off for a couple of hours before tacking again to stand on for our destination.

The timing was perfect, it was fully light as we motored around the harbour hunting for a suitable spot to anchor. Terempa is a pretty town lining a long finger of a harbour with blue roofs and pastel coloured buildings, some on wooden stilts on the starboard side. At the root is a commercial dock with supply ships along side and further out on the starboard side a fishing port with sizeable boats rafted up. On the port hand is a road or causeway on concrete pillars behind which several modern concrete two or three buildings perch on concrete stilts. The entire harbour was buzzing even at this hour with motorbike engines and water taxis zipping in and out. Having adjusted our clock to Indonesian time it was just 6am.

Anchoring Issues

The ground was horrid; we’d read of anchors getting stuck here and of boats dragging, what we saw through the crystal clear waters was not encouraging. Some seven or eight metres down was a rocky ridge running north south parallel with the causeway and topped with attractive clumps of coral, definitely not somewhere the hook would hold. Further out it was deep, very deep at 27 plus metres. The few mooring buoys were occupied by rally boats that beat us into town. Eventually we dropped the hook about halfway along, in the deeper stuff putting down some sixty or seventy metres of chain. The markings have been taking a hammering recently and many have disappeared so anchor chain has become a bit of a guesstimate. Mostly cautiously erring over the three times the depth.

The crew and skipper were tempted to snooze to catch up on lost sleep but after breakfast several dinghy loads of rally crews passed us heading into town. Having arrived on Saturday or Sunday none had been able to complete the round of quarantine, immigration, customs and harbourmaster’s offices. Showered and smartly dressed, long trousers not shorts and a proper shirt for the skipper we followed. The first office we found was the harbourmaster but he wouldn’t deal with us until we had completed all the other formalities.

The next office along the Main Street was Kastam or Customs. Here we found the crews of four boats perched on the stairs or seated on the sagging sofas in the crowded entrance way. They laughed as they instructed us where to find Quarantine and then Immigrasi. Half an hour later we were back passports stamped, certificate of practique issued. They were still there and made room for us. It took Kevin a little while to get the customs official to realise we were another boat and hand over our paperwork but eventually everyone received their stamped vessel declaration and we trooped off to the harbourmaster one by one. The process had taken most of the morning but at least it was quicker than the several days it had taken in Kupang and the offices were all within an easy walk of each other.

More Anchoring Issues

After a quick tootle around the busy narrow streets were there are as many motorbikes as pedestrians we had lunch in a cafe over the water near the water taxi dock. Afterwards we decided to move to the tiny bay on the port handside of the entrance to Terempa the other side of a giant mosque under construction. Javerne, Gemini Lady, ReVision II and Ganesh had anchored here. Corine from Ganesh reported it shallower and clean enough to swim. Life though is never that simple, the bow roller jammed in its swivel as we raised the chain.

The skipper took the dinghy to the bow with a selection of tools and, having tied the main metal part on a line to the boat, proceeded to dismantle the swivelling section of the bow roller. Never an easy task even in a marina with the risk of dropping vital parts, he somehow managed to undo everything despite the wash of passing small boats and take the roller assembly back to the cockpit for “fixing”. Temptress’ bow roller consists of two main parts, a heavy metal plate fixed to the bow that has two six inch wide channels each about a foot long. The left hand one of which has a large roller for rope or warp. The right hand channel contains two narrower chain rollers mounted one behind the other in a U shaped metal fitting that swivels on a very large bolt mounted through the other larger roller.

Each of the three rollers are a white nylon-like material with a metal tube inserted as a hub, all these components plus an assortment of nylon washers and nuts makes for a lot of bits to potentially drop out! The swivelling section had jammed because the long screw holding one of the pair of rollers had come loose. It was held captive by the whole fitting but was preventing the swivelling up and down of the fitting which in turn helps the chain run more smoothly. Suffice to say it was a ten minute job to recut the thread into which the screw fitted then assemble and tighten both roller screws. Some more gymnastics at the bow from the dinghy and forty minutes after we’d started to lift the anchor we could continue! The skipper’s problem solving and fixing skills never cease to amaze me.

A short five minute motor around the corner and one abortive attempt to anchor later Temptress found a quiet spot for the night. Yours truly though now bears a swollen left thumb having trapped it under the full weight of the anchor on the lower joint whilst sorting out the chain before our second go at anchoring. Ouch!

During the day we received a sobering report of a fire onboard Guiding Star II who had set out from Tioman on Saturday. The boat sank within minutes in the early hours of Sunday morning but fortunately her crew Bryan and Merinda who we hardly knew, managed to get into their tinny and it’s engine worked. Doubly fortunate in that the last 30 or so miles of the approach to the Anambas crosses a busy shipping route. They were picked by a passing cargo ship enroute to Singapore. The ship had spotted the fire and diverted to them. We wish them well as they recover from the ordeal of losing their home.