Monday, October 21, 2013, Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, Singapore
Here I sit, dressed in a long-sleeved pullover, typing our latest log entry. I’m happily ensconced in the “Chart Room” of the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club which is air conditioned to the max. You’ll get no complaints from me.
We arrived in Singapore, (a city, an island and a country unto itself) on October 7th after bidding Indonesia goodbye and threading our way across the congested shipping lanes of the Singapore Straits. Yikes! Hello First World. We have wined and dined and caught up with cruising friends we haven’t seen in a long time. Roger has worked with the local Furuno dealer to rebuild our autopilot and wind instrument while I added some treats to the larder that we haven’t seen in a while and may not encounter anytime soon. We’ve done the requisite touring and are ready to make our way up the Straits of Malacca. We look forward to Malaysia and Thailand but are sad to see Indonesia disappear astern.
Indonesia. The End.
Wednesday, September 18th – 24th, Kumai, Kalimantan
The thousand or so miles from Bali to Singapore were a lot of work with a bit of wonder mixed in to keep us smiling.
Our only planned “tourist” destination on the way to Singapore was Kumai, Kalimantan (on the island commonly known as Borneo) to visit the Tanjung Puting National Park. The Park is the sight of Camp Leakey, started in 1971 by Dr. Birute Galdikas, to rehabilitate and protect orangutans in the wild.
The four day passage from Bali to Kumai gave us a taste of what was to follow on our trip up the South China Sea to Singapore. On our first day we stayed close to the east coast of Bali and escaped the brunt of the southbound current that wanted to suck us over to Lembongan. Once we were north of Padang Bai we were even able to sail a bit. We rounded the northeastern tip of Bali by 4:30 and watched as the sun set on the beautiful northern coast. Over the next three days we alternated between sailing and motoring and dodging ships and fishing boats. The weather was fine and we were glad to check off four hundred miles on the road to Singapore.
Our destination, Kumai, has a Wild West feeling to it after Bali. It is relatively small and seems to belong to an earlier time. The waterfront is lined with not only ships but with large wooden pinisi-type local freighters. They are beautiful and remarkable in their continued usefulness.
We contacted Harry’s Yacht Services shortly after we arrived. Harry had been recommended to us by our friends on Kelaerin who had visited last year. In addition to arranging Klotok trips up the River to see the orangutans, Harry can assist yachties with a variety of services. We hoped that after our orangutan visit we’d be able to check out of Indonesia with his help. Fingers were crossed.
Our three day visit to Tanjung Puting National Park was great. Being able to observe orangutans in a relatively wild setting was quite something. We felt a mix of awe and discomfort in their presence. Their likeness to humans, with whom they share 97% of their DNA, is eerie. On one visit to the ranger’s camp near the Leakey feeding station a female Orangutan approached Roger and took his hand. This is of course a no-no and the behavior was quickly quashed by the rangers but for the briefest instant there was a sense of something indescribable in the connection. It was the high point of the visit for him.
The following day Harry and I encountered Tom, the alpha male, sitting near the ranger station. Soon he headed toward the feeding station. We enjoyed an exhilarating twenty minute walk, first behind, and then in front of Tom, who seemed to be without a care in the world. Once we arrived at the feeding area Harry suggested we step far to the side. Apparently Tom likes to make an entrance. With one sweep of his great long arm, two logs (bench seats) flew through the air causing a great scattering of tourists. All the male orangutans feeding on the platform headed for the tree tops. It was quite a performance.
The discomfort we experienced during our visit sprang from the fact that due to the destruction of their habitat, the orangutan’s survival is increasingly in question. At this point it’s far from certain it’s a hurdle that they can surmount.
Checking Out of Indonesia
After our orangutan odyssey we had to confront a hurdle of our own, namely, getting out of Indonesia. Over the four and a half months of our stay we had to face the music that is Indonesian bureaucracy on numerous occasions. We had renewed our visas multiple times, we applied for and received a second CAIT and lastly and most notoriously we had to renew our Temporary Import Permit.
This last item had caused us some difficulty. Understandably the entire document we received when we checked in was in Indonesian. The only items we could read on the document were two dates. We mistakenly took the later of the two to be the date of expiration. Need I say more? At any rate the Customs guy in Sorong was not happy with us when it expired and we worked with Ruth, an agent in Bali, to try to get the situation rectified. After a certain amount of negotiation we got our new TIP number and we were good to go…we thought. Unfortunately the fellow in Sorong, despite having an emailed copy of the new forms, wanted a paper set sent by DHL. This we did but two of the papers were incorrect. Please DHL the correct papers. By this point we were on passage and nowhere near a DHL office.
This brings us to our check out in Kumai. The check out process entails getting Immigration, Customs, Harbormaster, Quarantine and the Navy to stamp the piece of paper you need to exit the country (and more importantly, enter the next.) We thought we’d tackle the most difficult stop first. Off to Pangkalan Bun we went with Harry at the wheel, the Customs office our destination.
Amazingly enough, either because Harry got them talking about the weekend’s entertainment or because they were in the middle of eating a large cake (a slice of which they offered to us) they stamped our paperwork without a backwards glance. The unhappy official in Sorong faded from our minds and Harry was a hero. The rest of the process, although successful, proved to be quintessentially Indonesian.
Quarantine: “Why don’t you have this certificate?” they asked. “They didn’t give us the certificate in Sorong when we checked in.” The Quarantine officers even went so far as to show us the Chinese version of the certificate as though it might trigger our memories. Needless to say, we drew a blank. Twenty dollars later we had the necessary certificate, AND THEN they all wanted to have their photos taken with us before we left. Out came the cell phones.
Harbormaster: The Harbormaster was a lovely guy and completely apologetic when he said he couldn’t stamp our paper till the following day. It seems that the 62 cent harbor fee we paid had to clear the accounting office (across the street) and that wouldn’t happen until tomorrow.
Immigration: The people who brought us aggravation from one end of the country to the other stamped our paper ten times and sent us on our way with a smile. Hallelujah.
Navy: Everyone agreed we shouldn’t bother. We were ok with that.
Wednesday, September 25th – October 6th, Kumai to Singapore
We pinched ourselves as we pulled up the anchor. We were free to leave the country. We were giddy. It’s not that we hadn’t enjoyed Indonesia. It’s a beautiful country with an amazing array of destinations and lovely people but from the perspective of a cruising sailor it can be daunting in the paperwork department.
Now we just needed to finish six hundred miles of Indonesia without incident and we were home free.
Our first stop after Kumai was Serutu. Two hundred and forty miles up the road and several hundred squid boats later we dropped the anchor in a small, beautiful bay. The holding was good in sand which we appreciated once the wind started to howl through the gap at the head of the bay.
We spent four days relaxing and making small repairs before our second jump which was to the Island of Mesanak, two hundred and eighty miles northwest. This bay was lovely but not as well protected. We had several visits from wonderful little boys, some of whom came to practice their English while others were there just to giggle. They were amazingly polite and proper. We encountered another cruiser here, a single-hander from the UK. Once again we were ships who passed in the night. By this point the thunder storms were starting to make themselves known. Our departure from Mesanak was delayed a day due to inclement weather. At least the scenery and the holding were good.
From Mesanak to Singapore required two day hops. The first was to the Island of Galang. This was a very odd little anchorage where we were joined by two fishermen before our anchor was even set. When I say joined I mean they tied off their skiff, climbed aboard with their cigarettes and took a seat. Needless to say, we were a bit disconcerted. We tried the “would you like a coke?” approach to getting rid of them. Happily this worked and within three minutes of their arrival we had sent them on their way, sipping our national beverage. This visit was quickly followed by a tourist boat filled with Muslim women holding expensive cameras wanting to take our picture. We vowed that thunderstorm or no, we were leaving first thing in the morning.
Our next and final stop in Indonesia was at Pulau Kapalajerih. I was a bit anxious about this day’s trip because it required transiting a narrow ten mile strait, for which our nav data was a bit thin. With a combination of Google earth charts, OpenCPN and a small scale paper chart we found ourselves safely in our anchorage by mid-afternoon with no less than 45’ of water seen during the passage. Whew!
In the evening we sat in the cockpit looking at a beckoning bit of the Singapore skyline and listening to the Singapore Harbor Control on VHF 14. Our view included an astounding number of ships heading through the various shipping lanes which surround Singapore. Meanwhile in our anchorage tiny little dugouts worked the fish traps which fringed the empty shoreline. It was quite a juxtaposition. The following day we’d travel twenty miles in distance but immeasurably far in the way people lived their lives.