Island Three Has Three Names!
Sunday morning the yoghurt was condemned, though it was set to chill in the fridge despite smelling slightly of old socks. Let’s see what it tastes like later. If truely bad then it’ll be mid June and a Kuching supermarket for a new pot of plain yoghurt before we can start afresh. With the most of the laundry dry it was time to hoik the dinghy onto the foredeck and prepare for sea again. Leaving Michael to enjoy the solitude of the anchorage for another day or two, Temptress in company with Mai Tai headed south and east towards another island with multiple names, Ayerabu/Airabu or Kirabu.
The sailing was delightful with a gentle breeze from the south east. Mai Tai is a few feet shorter and long keeled so it was interesting to see how differently the two boats sail. Temptress with her more modern, beamier hull and finkeel sails higher and slightly faster. Though Lane and Kay put to sea sooner, by late morning we were overhauling them at five knots or so. We tend to sail high if the wind allows as we can always bear away later towards the destination whereas heading directly there risks being set too low and having to motor up wind later. Speed is not always everything when you are cruising. As it is today the wind direction meant we couldn’t quite point at our destination, a bearing of 125 deg, mostly sailing something around 115 deg. At some point later this afternoon we will need to tack.
Just before twelve we caught our first fish in a long long time, aside from an unwanted large barracuda between Tioman and Anambas that was released. This one was a modest sized bonito that initially just caused the trolling line to tick out. Reeling it in the fish didn’t rise to the surface or splash, I decided it had to be yet another chunk of plastic so was pleasantly surprised to see the line veer and dive, typical tuna behaviour as it neared the boat. Ten minutes later two fillets weighing around a kilo were in the fridge, tonight’s supper for the four of us.
Sailing amongst the islands is very pretty, they rise steep and green often two hundred metres or more. Their fringes are big boulders of pinkish granite, little bays have white sand beaches, maybe a few coconut palms and usually are protected by impenetrable reefs. Very few are inhabited and for the visitor the only entertainment is snorkelling or diving. Most islands are too steep, the jungle too thick for paths to walk or climb any distance. Having your own boat is a must once away from Tarempa’s water taxis to explore the multitude of bays.
Exploring the unknown
The wind having kept us from the original plan of sailing down the western shore of Airabu we set a course between the islands at its wide northern end. A 400 metre peak ensured that there the wind couldn’t reach us so we stowed the sails and turned on the engine to motor the last few miles along the eastern coast. The way points described routes in around an island to the south, we decided to explore an approach from the east. Our chart showed coral everywhere which we knew to be untrue as Temptress had 40 metres under her.
I stood on the bow as look out, hard in the low sun coming from my right. Then as Kevin called out rapidly decreasing depths I saw rock below us. Fortunately there was a good five metres of water over it. Then the depth increased once more, Temptress was inside a big protective lagoon with islands all around. A quick chat on the VHF with Mai Tai revealed their electronic chart showed a couple of rocks in the deep water approach, looks like we motored over the top of one! Half an hour later both boats were at anchor in the northern end. A few local boats could be seen moored over a mile away to the south east, a sole dugout was being paddled slowly along the shore by a guy wearing a snorkelling mask on his head, from time to time he slipped over the side after clams.
There was no one else, no phone signal, just great slabs of rock, scrubby trees and again butterflies. The one thing I will take away from this place is the extraordinary number and variety of butterflies and where you see them. Large black and yellow swallowtails as big as a hand, teeny white ones and all sorts in between in a range of colours. They flit across the channels between the islands several miles from land, dart languidly across the boat at anchor, in Terempa we saw them in every street. With little or no cultivation the Anambas seems to be a haven for butterflies.
After a quick swim it was time to cook supper. The boat crews dined on bonito chunks gently cooked in a Spanish style tomato sauce flavoured with smoky paprika, herbs and garlic followed by chocolate mousse with orange pieces, the latter kindly made by Kay. It was a treat. The remaining portion of tuna is enough for another supper for Temptress crew.
After his morning cup of tea the skipper got down to watermaker maintenance. By removing the mattress from our bunk and two of the drawers from underneath he could extract the stinky filter to be cleaned with a toothbrush in a couple of buckets of seawater. The improvement in both water quality and flow was noticeable! Our tanks are filling up with water of a quality far higher than the WHO standard for potability. Around 15-20 litres an hour are produced, laundry, our biggest water consumer needs three hours worth. The rest is drunk, used in the galley or for washing ourselves. With some 540 litres of water in the tanks, unlike many cruising boats we can treat ourselves to the luxury of a shower at the end of everyday after swimming.
Later in the morning both crews took to dinghies and ascended a giant sloping granite slab to take pictures looking down on the boats. It was hot work with no shade. Then we dinghied a mile or so south across the bay to a long beach of white sand. Sadly the main distraction was the large number of odd shoes in amongst the piles of plastic and discarded fishing gear. The skipper turned down a walk along the full length of the beach in favour of floating almost fully clothed in the sea. The three of us found the soft sand hard going but at least it was some exercise, there are few places in these islands to walk unless you go armed with a machete and wear long trousers and sleeves which simply isn’t practical in the heat.