Tawau, Malaysia to Nunukan, Indonesia
Tawau YC Anchorage
The Wednesday morning (August 28) after the storm our first task after breakfast was for the skipper to replace both alternator belts on the big Balmar. During the shenanigans of the previous night the battery charging had all but stopped, the little alternator was called into service to top up the domestics as well as the engine battery. The engine stop had failed last night too but WD40 had sorted that at 3am. The Yanmar got a quick check over then it was time to go.
A group of about a dozen rally yachts left Tawau for the short twenty mile passage around the top of Sabatik Island to Nunukan in Indonesia. After the late night we were all subdued and glad to leave. So was the breeze, Temptress motored all the way. The Malaysian end of the channel is called Wallace Bay and has disused coal mines, presumable where steam ships of old called in for fuel. At the Indonesian end we encountered a mass of tethered plastic bottles joined by ropes, thousands of them stretching across several miles – apparently the locals here grow and harvest seaweed for a living. A channel wide enough for the Tawau Nunukan ferry was easy to spot in daylight, I wouldn’t want to make the trip in the dark. During the day the barometer dropped ominously again too.
Off the surprisingly large town the designated anchorage is a triangle at the opposite end to the port and ferry terminal. Quarantine and Immigration came out to us in a couple of overloaded small boats. Six or eight young officials clutching reams of forms clambered into the cockpit. The quarantine guys burst into Little Susie in Bahasa on hearing my name, it obviously amused them so I joined in! (They persisted in this the following day too). Ten minutes of form signing and stamping later they announced we could collect our ships health book in the morning and it was valid anywhere in Indonesia. Immigration took our passports to stamp ashore, we could collect them at six this evening. We said they could wait til the morning when we had launched our dinghy. Next customs boarded us, another large young group who quizzed us on plans and filled in forms which the skipper signed and stamp every page of. Now we were officially able to go ashore. Tomorrow we could collect the various bits of paper that would permit us to sail in Indonesian waters.
More Stormy Waters
That night just as we finished a game of Canasta and were thinking about heading for bed it started to rain. Within minutes as we scurried around closing hatches and putting things away the wind rose rapidly to well over 25knots. Then as we paused for breath the anchor alarm sounded. Temptress was dragging. What not again? This was the third time in 19 years of ownership and the second in two nights. I scrambled onto the foredeck, my sundress blowing up around my waist in the driving rain. The anchor came up easily, a ball of mud surrounding it or so it appeared. Yet again a nearby catamaran, the same culprit as the previous night, was shining a big spotlight in our direction, killing our night vision in the heavy rain.
We used the same tactic as previously and motored up and down the channel just outside the anchorage until the wind abated and the rain eased down to a shower. At least one other boat was heading eastwards as their anchor dragged but they were clear of any dangers. With dry clothes on and my oilies over the top I went to the bow. Immediately I could see in the light of a head torch why we’d dragged, the rain had washed off the mud to reveal a huge mass of net and rope. Half an hour later the skipper freed it and with relief we dropped the hook out in deeper water, setting it with a hefty reverse and adding a lot more metres of chain afterwards to ensure our security. It wasn’t coming out again easily!
About that paperwork; Indonesia is infamous for it. In 2015 the government announced that they were simplifying the process for yachts to help boost tourism, boats being the only real way of touring around the thousands of islands. Since February 2016 all a yacht needs is a stamped crewlist from immigration, possibly a port clearance (though technically this is only needed when you depart for a foreign port) and for the crew to hold the appropriate visas. This has not reached Nunukan as the harbourmaster’s office insisted we need a Ship’s Health Book commonly known as a Green Book before they would issue a port clearance.
We spent Thursday morning collecting all the bits and pieces from customs, immigration and quarantine and handed it over to the HMs representatives on the jetty before they would start the clearance paperwork. Initially noncommittal about when it would be ready, five of six skippers between them extracted a promise of 5pm. On our way around the offices we met Rudi, a friendly young customs officer from Java, his boss volunteered him to help us so he drove us into town where we bought SIM cards and fruit. Later a group of us consulted him about where to have lunch which resulted in another lift into town where we all treated him to lunch at a rather pleasant cafe.
Late afternoon: When a couple of boat crews headed to the HMs office to expedite collection they discovered the staff about to lock up the office and head home. Thankfully they were minded to return to their desks and issue our papers. So by six o’clock we were in possession of a Green Book with its certificates of a healthy crew and an IMO first aid box! Not that anyone has formally checked on either! The book is impressive with pages of blank squares to be filled in at future ports and apparently useful throughout Indonesia! Even our port clearance has extra forms attached; as they are in Bahasa we’ve no idea what purpose they serve. Still at least we can now commence our cruise through this incredible archipelago.
Ships Log: Tawau – Nunakan 21.7nm