Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5 October 2008, Sunday

Sunday 5 October 2008

Mesenak, Lingga Island  Lat 00 35.49N, Long 104 39.69E

What a beautiful bay we woke to this morning. We arrived here just on sunset last night, after dodging a storm for a few hours to get here. Storms have begun to feature lately – experienced our first one a few days ago, when we tried to sail to Bangka Island, and were chased out and forced north instead. It wasn’t severe by any means, but we had three hours of winds up to 35 knots, rough seas and rain. Malaika handles it well, and we felt perfectly safe. 

We left Kumai River, Borneo, on Tuesday 23rd September and travelled just a couple of hours to the river mouth where we anchored off the beach - a long narrow spit of white sand with strange little decaying buildings along the foreshore. It looked like an abandoned tourist resort, or perhaps an attempt to establish a national park and these were a kind of picnic shelter. We followed earlier visitors and built a fire on the concrete floor of one, had lunch and lazed around for a few hours. (what is it about Australians and this compulsion to light fires?) Left early Wednesday morning and sailed until we reached Pulau Nangka on Friday morning. The last few hours were a bit hairy, threading our way through countless squid fishing boats and reefs in the dark – a good test of our chart plotter – and then, as we stood out from Nangka till morning, not wanting to chance an unknown anchorage without daylight, one of our alternators stopped working, and the rudder seemed to be playing up as well. Great – it looked like we’d be floating amongst all these reefs with no engine and no rudder....   Lothlorien stayed close in case we ran into any trouble, and we anchored inside the bay around 6.30am.

Nangka is an uninhabited island – we didn’t think there were any in Indonesia! The anchorage was much easier to get into than the reefs we’d already negotiated in the dark, and we could have come in easily, but it’s always better to motor in slowly in sunlight when you can see the reef through the water, and avoid those big bommies. The snorkelling here was good, but there was a lot of coral damage. Lots of clown anemone fish (Nemos) and a black and white banded sea snake, as well as clouds of other colourful fish.

Lex pulled the alternator off the engine but it needs an electrician to solve the problems. We’ll continue on with just one alternator now, and juggle battery charging instead. The rudder problem seemed to disappear, but we’ll haul out and get it sorted in Langkawi. Lothlorien brought a roast beef (!) over for dinner, and we produced a bottle of red wine we had forgotten hidden in a cupboard, just when we all thought it was cold turkey till Singapore! One problem about Kumai River was that it had declared itself a dry town after a spate of alcohol related troubles, and there was no alcohol to be got for love nor money anywhere. This was about the time we appreciated how low our supplies were…

We left Nangka Tuesday 30th, and did two overnight sails. We’d intended to stop the first night at an island but storms chased us northwards instead of southwest, and we had to keep sailing. However, the Spanish mackerel that took the lure off the back of the boat next day was some compensation. We came alongside Lothlorien and passed half of it over to them.  The following day we hooked a humungous queenfish, but had to release because it was too rough to handle it safely. We’ve been amazed by how few fish there seem to be in these waters. Sailing up the east and north coasts of Australia last year, we caught fish every second day at least, and released what we didn’t need, but here in Indonesia we’ve only caught three fish altogether. The fishing pressure must be enormous – fishing boats, fixed nets and drift nets have been obvious everywhere. We’ve seen plenty of fish in the markets, but not many really big fish.

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