On Thursday 23 May Pak Raymond who is coordinating this Indonesian section of the rally, presented ourselves, Mai Tai and Henrietta with our all important Port Clearance for Natuna. Usually Port Clearances are issued to yachts leaving one country for another however in this part of the world and especially in Indonesia, Harbour Masters insist on them for local trips too. It keeps them in a job and the certificates themselves are often quite impressive with a large crest and several stamps! Sadly they are only ever in our possession for a few days or so til we reach our next official port where they will join thousands of others in the piles of box files that fill every harbour office. In this case though we were going to wander the islands before actually leaving!
The day before, as we wandered en masse around the market stalls and shops of Terempa, we came to a loose agreement that it would fun to explore the islands together. The original posse also included Aotea but skipper Tony wanted a few more bits so would join us later. In the event, Henrietta’s skipper Michael who is singlehanding, decided he didn’t want an upwind sail so headed off between the islands to the north of Terempa saying he’d catch us up!
It amused us to realise it was raining over to the north whereas by going southwest we had glorious sunshine and a great breeze for the ten miles or so to windward to reach P. Genting Uyut. As we approached this tiny island whose name is completely out of proportion to its size there appeared to be an uncharted pile of rock slap bang in the middle of the bay. Charts here are not necessarily accurate, surveyors of yore often drew lines from headland to headland marking everything inside ‘coral’ so I was not so surprised. In fact Mai Tai’s electronic charts differed from our own and both from our paper chart but all basically filled the bay and it’s surrounds with coral. Our pilot notes from previous rallies said this was a small bay with anchoring possible in 10-12 metres over sand, nothing about rocks.
Closer in all became clear, three large fishing rafts were anchored there. These objects look more like the rafters and beams of a 10×10 metre house roof under construction afloat on blue shipping barrels. On the deck under the apex of the A frames is usually a garden shed for the generator. Upfront is a huge wooden windlass for raising an oversized fisherman’s anchor. The ‘gable ends’ are loaded with lamps the size of car headlamps, which they could well be in this homegrown make do economy. Under the flooring beams that were lashed between the two floats, hang black fine mesh nets. These rafts sieve the sea by lowering their nets, turning on the lights to attract their unwary prey and then retrieving the fish from the nets into large plastic boxes. They departed at sundown for the sheltered waters a few miles out from the island east toward Terempa and returned in the early hours. Just after seven in the morning most of the crew and presumably the catch headed off to Terempa. The rest laid down to sleep.
Genting Uyut proved to be a pleasant, calm place for the night with just enough breeze to remain cool in our bunk. The tiny bay is fringed with huge granite boulders topped with jungle. The beach is golden sand backed by coconut palms.Tropical paradise til you look closer and spot the plastic flotsam piling up beneath them. Our fishing neighbours dumped their rubbish by throwing plastic bags off their rafts where it floated on the breeze and tide out into the sea. Presumably this was the fate of the wrappings of the takeaway supper the crew had brought out late afternoon. On the seabed below Temptress we could spot plastic and other rubbish half buried in the sand as we snorkelled. One has to ask how long SE Asia can go on living like this, overfishing and dumping rubbish into the one resource their lives depend on?
On leaving the next morning both boats headed around to the east through the gap between the island and it’s neighbour. The tide was whizzing through giving us an extra 2 knots; always interesting when you are trying to go slowly to avoid possible uncharted reefs. Further on a tide line where currents meet, revealed just how much the sea around these islands is used as a rubbish dump. Stretching in a long line in either direction about 20 metres wide ribbon of discarded plastic; bags, bottles and even nappies.
The scenery maybe beautiful, the local government may want to promote marine tourism with activities like hosting this rally, printing diving and snorkelling guides featuring glossy pictures of white sand and beautiful fish but unless there is a drive to clean up the sea this attempt to diversify could be in vain. Certainly the promised magic of the Anambas has so far eluded Temptress, the islands are not living up to their claim to be one of the world’s premier marine spots which as there is little else to see or do is the main reason for being here. However there are 255 islands and we have two more weeks in which to explore them.
[Pak – short for Bapak which is Bahasa for Mister, Pak is used as a term of respect like Uncle is used in Singapore. Older women are referred to as Ibu xxx.]