South to Pasangkayu and Beyond

10 – 12 September

We’d finally departed Donggala and soon all four boats were sailing south, the strong wind being from just south of east. However it didn’t last, as the mountains neared the coast an hour later the wind fell away completely. The hazy coast is layers of blue grey misty ridges rising up one behind the other like crumpled paper. The tallest peaks marked on the chart are over 2000 metres high just a few miles inland. The shore itself is low lying and tree clad, long curving beaches have fishing boats moored off them. It was an uneventful day with the exception of Javerne catching a big fish and Mai Tai having a close encounter with a mud bank trying unsuccessfully to negotiate her way inside the reefs at our destination.

I’d like to tell you that we reached Pasangkayu but as the charts labelled the village Cenopu and the sign on the beach read ‘@vovosanggayu’ we really don’t know! The local headland was Tg Pasangkayu though. Shortly after dropping the hook the local mosque, a rather pretty building in red and green tiles with a shiny silver dome, began broadcasting so loudly we could hear the hum of the sound system 250m or more away. After awhile the muezzin finally reached the call to prayer then proceeded to broadcast everything that followed, we could hear footsteps and the rustle of clothing clearly out in the bay.

After a short break, as sunset approached he began again. Melodic but not inline with an Indonesian government ruling last year that external speakers should only be used for the call to prayer, not sermons, not Koran reading competitions etc. Was it a special day or is that mosque especially religious, we will never know. Meanwhile several others close by competed out of step with their call to prayer too. At 04:30 we were woken by the same guy, grumpily I fell asleep again for a the short remaining period of night as the fleet planned a 06:30 departure.

Wednesday 11 September

The coast has changed, the mountains have gone, all we can see is the flat tree fringed coastline with an occasional upraised headland. Just a couple more day sails to reach Mamuju, maybe three if we decide to investigate a couple of interesting looking anchorages. We’ve taken to comparing charts and consulting various satellite images in order to suss out potential bays as the charting has proved inaccurate, though they don’t always help. The iSailor chart for last nights stopover actually states it doesn’t match WGS84 the digital standard for mapping so there was little surprise to find the reefs not where the chart indicated. Navionics was a little better but again not accurate and the satellite pictures had some cloud cover! The mark one eyeball is a better tool close in to the shore around here.

After an hour of pleasant sailing the wind died just as it did yesterday. I’d guess it was a land breeze left over from the night, the sea breeze will probably take over once the sun is high enough. For now though the four boats are motoring. We finally caught a fish but it got away after a few minutes tussle, the lure’s slightly rusty triple hook was straightened out so that’s why we lost out again on a supper. The hook has now been replaced.

Late morning as predicted the sea breeze arrived soon Temptress was bowling along around six knots. The mountains came back too, or rather the coast had bent further east to meet them. Few foothills, just hazy grey cardboard cutouts stuffed behind the trees on the flat coastline and topped with billows of fluffy white cloud. Gram (chickpea) flour flat breads for lunch with yellow split pea dhal and some mashed avocado. A bit messy in terms of the quantity of washing up but worth the effort.

It’s been a week since we departed Maratua. Far from the hard slog I thought we were in for, it has been an enjoyable trip. Sailing in company has been wonderful, the coastal scenery interesting and we have even managed some sailing, more than we did on the rally.

Seaweed at Gambunah

We were destined not to have Corinne’s fish soup for supper (though we did finally enjoy it when we reached Mamujuj). After a wonderful full day of sailing Temptress headed into the bay at Gambunah slowly whilst furling the genoa, then dropping the mainsail into a neat stack on the boom. When the crew looked up we saw something glinting on the water. Binoculars quickly revealed it to be thousands of small plastic bottles. As we draw nearer it became apparent that from the 30m depth contour inward the bay was completely filled with a seaweed farm. (You can read more about this newish Indonesian initiative here:

Nowhere to anchor. The four boats reluctantly explored the coast westwards towards the headland but felt it was too exposed as even there the bottles stretched out from the beach some distance. Nothing for it but to continue through the night. With just over forty miles to the provincial city of Mamuju and thirteen or fourteen hours until daybreak it would necessarily be a slow trip.

Official Selfies

Dawn over Mamuju was beautiful. The sun rose over the mountains that back the city. We skirted the west coast of a large island that sits in the middle of the bay and anchored in four or five metres off the curving wall of the town plaza that is backed by a large mosque. Just as we completed our boat tidying tasks, before retiring to our bunks to sleep, five uniformed officials in tiny speed boat painted in coastguard colours motored around, ostensibly fishing out plastic with a net but mostly photographing the boats. All four boat crews then retired to bed only to be woken by a visit from officialdom after just about an hour’s kip.

There were nine of them in our cockpit! It’s a feature of this part of the world, they turn up en masse, immigration and the navy as far as we could gather this time. Whether they have any specific legal reason or whether it’s just their desire to photograph everything, passports, papers, crew, boat or themselves, I haven’t a clue. We did discover that the senior naval officer was a Fireball sailor and had represented his country at the ASEAN Games. We gave him brief tour down below for which he thanked us profusely. Fortunately the rest of the party decided to stay on deck.

I’m still not certain what they made of us. Questions ranged from ‘where are you from, Australia?’ to ‘are you retired?’ to ‘is this your house?’ and ‘what did you work at?’. They were surprised we hadn’t worked for our government, weren’t Australian and don’t get a pension! The questions more telling of their culture and the yachts they most frequently meet than of us. Later still another boat load in the bright blue uniforms of the marine polis motored around us taking photos. We launched the dinghy and making use of the new friendships, headed for the polis jetty where they kindly let us tie up our tenders to one of their boats.

We clambered over two official black painted boats onto a local wooden fishing boat that had yellow ‘police line do not cross’ tape tied around it, then up a set of tyres onto the jetty. Dusting ourselves off we posed for yet more photos with officials before walking along the widest high street we’ve seen in a longtime, wide enough to land a plane the skipper pointed out, towards the newish shopping mall come hotel and conference centre. Lunch followed by sticky iced doughnuts and coffee fortified us all for a ‘Hypermart’ sortee.


Shelves neatly stacked apparently full but actually only one packet or tin deep, empty spaces where tv screens and other electrical goods should be displayed, eggs labelled as having been laid more than a fortnight ago, shrink wrapped vegetables rotting under the plastic. Aside from Singapore this is the nightmare of shopping in much of SE Asia. Buyer beware. Most locals buy what they need when they need it, unable to afford large packs of washing powder, jars of coffee or much else we take for granted and buy in quantity on a monthly dash by car to the out of town supermarket. If you want a sack or rice, bottled soft drinks, tinned sardines, snack foods or baby milk then you could find them here but little else. This supermarket like others we’ve shopped at in this part of the world was virtually empty of both stock and shoppers. In fact the whole mall with its smart department store and clothes shops upstairs was devoid of customers, just the eight of us enjoying the AC, a sticky treat and a chance to stretch our legs.

Fresh food is usually bought in the market daily. Stalls around the vegetable market sell dry goods like pulses, rice and dried chillis as well as onions and garlic. Tiny roadside stalls or shops in the corner of someone’s home sell hot or cold beverage powders that come in tiny single serving packets with sugar and milk powder included. These like the single use packs of laundry powder and litre bottle of moped fuel are bought individually as needed. Huge amounts of single use plastic but all pointing to a population that live from day to day on what they can grow and catch with little spare cash.

Tomorrow we’ll seek out the vegetable market for a few supplies to bolster what is in the coolbox for the next leg, a five or six day passage to Belitung 760nm further west. For the first time in a while we are heading for somewhere we’ve been to before back in 2016. Don’t expect to hear much from us from Sunday onwards as we reach across the lower part of the Makassar Strait towards the south east corner of Borneo then turn west under Kalimantan and on to Belitung Island that sits at the western end of the Java Sea around 185nm due north of Jakarta.

Ships Log: Donggala to Mamuju 151nm