Final Days in Anambas

Moon Rock Lagoon

Fabulous views from the top

With the cloudy northerlies we’ve experienced since Saturday it’s become obvious this is a dreaded monsoon surge with several more days of rainy, occasionally gusty northerly winds and the odd thunderstorm in prospect. Think November in the U.K., grey and damp. Pulau Mandariau Darat was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with a building swell coming directly in, more so at night when the winds eased and Temptress swung beam onto the waves.

Our next intended destination was a series of islands that with their attendant reefs enclose a sheltered lagoon. The main island to the south is Sagudampar, to the north is the much smaller Pulau Sama and between them to the west is the tiny Pulau Cina. The issue was whether or not in the poor light we could pick our way through the reefs. As most of the pilotage notes are aimed at cruising these islands in the SW Monsoon we had little idea of anywhere else reasonably protected from the north. This was not the time to go searching out somewhere off piste so the plan agreed with Mai Tai was to leave early, check out whether the lagoon entrance was feasible and if not we’d have time to head on to Waterfall Bay which is entirely surrounded by hills and reefs so extremely protected.

Obsession II was off to Terempa to do some grocery shopping; cruising life has been defined as fixing boats in exotic places, you can actually add provisioning and laundry to that list as both these tasks seem to take an extraordinary amount of our time. It’s rarely the case that you can walk (or taxi) a few minutes to a well stocked supermarket and few boats have the luxury of an automatic washing machine.

It turned out the bigger issue with Sagudampar was one we hadn’t considered; space. As one of the few comfortable anchorages in the current conditions as well as being highly rated for its beautiful surroundings there were already five yachts at anchor in the lagoon! Plus a rib from a nearby resort tied to a mooring. We did a complete circuit of the 200 metre wide space before settling back on the anchor behind Esoterica close to the entrance. It was flat calm. Kevin rinsed the bucket of laundry that had been soaking overnight and for a couple of hours it hung in the breeze on the foredeck until blackening skies drove us to move it to under the bimini in the cockpit for the rest of the day. Mai Tai arrived and squeezed in front of us. I made a loaf of bread and did a bit more sewing. By lunchtime it was raining.

Miserable is how we felt the next morning. No point snorkelling as the sun hadn’t bothered to show up, the sky was a thick mass of high clouds in shades of grey. The higher hills on Matak a few miles to the west were enclosed in rain. Making the best of the cool temperatures, the only benefit of a monsoon surge, we spent a couple of hours after breakfast polishing the cabin sides and cockpit. Hard on the knees but worth the effort to see the clean shiny result. For a 27 year old boat Temptress scrubs up well. In the afternoon when the next rain shower cleared we launched Sheila and toured around the anchorage and beyond. Below the water the coral looks amazing and around the point we were treated to the sight of a school of sizeable bonito feeding on smaller fry with lots of leaping and splashing.

Perched on the rocks around the place are four or five ‘longhouses’ or rather the atap roof and timber supports of this traditional style house. They always look elegant with their upturned gables that soar above the roof apex. These though probably owe their construction more to Thailand than Indonesia. Apparently owned by a German the huts offer remote eco glamping. One rally yacht was approached with the request not to BBQ as the smoke would drift down to the guests onshore, I guess the food provided isn’t to be compared to a piece of Australia beef being seared. Up close each hut is equipped with a frame tent and the big hut overlooking the lagoon has a satellite dish! Rumour has it the owner is trying to make the lagoon a marine reserve. The cynic wonders if this is to prevent yachts from staying in the lagoon for free and disturbing his paying guests’ isolation! Shame he hasn’t bothered to collect up the plastic from the beaches that surround the lagoon.

Finally on Wednesday morning a normal weather service has resumed. Blue skies, a smattering of fluffy cloud and the sun. Before 8am it was already officially warm. The plan today is for six of us, the crews of Mai Tai, Ananda II (they arrived yesterday afternoon shortly after most of the rally yachts left) and ourselves to attempt to reach the top of Moonrock. This large boulder streaked with grey and black on the north end of Sagudampar dominates the lagoon and must be be over 100 metres high. Julie and Leyton of Esotaria scaled it yesterday and said the views are fabulous. Kay and I are looking forward to some exercise that isn’t swimming!

The lagoon from MoonRock

It was a great walk, at times almost a scramble, through the trees which gave much needed shade. The view from 115m up (we confirmed the height with a gps) was wonderful down onto the boats floating on light blue water of the lagoon. We could clearly see the coral and rock patches. This was one of the few highlights of the Anambas for us. By lunchtime as the water was disappointingly too murky for snorkelling after the recent rain we were on our way again. The lagoon didn’t really live up to its billing for us I’m afraid, time to move on.

The Skippers made it to the top

Piogus and the Penjalins

Pulau Piogus just eight miles to the west, promised a resort restaurant and possibly mobile phone coverage. The skipper was anxious to get email to confirm the renewed tenancy had gone ahead, meaning we should have some money in the bank and a weather forecast for the weekend’s overnight passage to Natuna. The channel between the north end of Piogus and nearby Batugaram was pretty and safe enough though with quite a lot of rubbish floating on the tideline. Sadly our anchorage failed to deliver on a meal or email connectivity. The resort was shut with only a pair of friendly hounds in residence and the anchorage wasn’t close enough to the nearby telephone mast. Ah well.

After a quiet night Mai Tai dinghied across to the village on Matak whilst we went for the floating option. Temptress motored south between the islands until the telecom mast was in sight again and the just hung around for almost an hour whilst Kevin tried in vain to get a better signal than internet-less 2G. WhatsApp delivered messages but sadly wouldn’t and our responses. We gave up and headed on to the outer most group of the Anambas islands, the Penjalins some eight or nine miles north east of Piogus. Remote with white sandy beaches was how they were billed.

Temptress arrived around the top rather than through the gap between the main pair. The anchorage we had a waypoint for was rolly, we could see the masts swaying back and forth. Then we spied a few boats we recognised, El Sogno, Sherman and Lady Gemini tucked in to a shallow bay a little further south around an unnamed lump of rock that gave some protection. It took us a couple of attempts but guided by Jeff and Charmaine who happened to be out and about in their rib we found a patch of sand big enough to drop the hook. Snorkelling later we discovered none of the nearby bommies was high enough to catch the rudder or keel. Yet again we didn’t bother launching the dinghy, we could snorkel directly from the boat. The coral was fascinating huge bommies looking like 60’s pop art rising from the sand were home to great numbers of fish. Some of the fish were huge too. I spotted a black tip reef shark that first afternoon and some large possibly grouper, certainly big enough to make a few meals but we didn’t bother fishing.

That evening Charmaine & Jeff invited everyone to Sherman for an impromptu steak sandwich! It was as always a fun evening chatting, catching up and discussing the ports to come. We tried fishing, with a net for squid which were basking in the lights from the boat but only Jeff was quick enough to sweep one from the sea. Squid seemingly can swim both backwards and forwards at will and have very quick reactions.

Friday was the first after Ramadan and still a major holiday here so it was unsurprising to watch the next day as several boatloads of locals arrived and set up camp on the beach. Despite the rain on and off most of the afternoon and evening they karaoked the night away. I suspect some of them never even slept as the teenagers were wandering the beach at dawn the next morning. I took advantage of the cool overcast early morning to polish the transom so now only the topsides need attention. Temptress is beginning to look clean and loved once again. And, as the weather wasn’t conducive to staying and snorkelling in the Anambas any more, it was time to depart for our next rally destination, Natuna.